The Problems With Gluten Sensitivity Testing

Discussion in 'Fibromyalgia Main Forum' started by IanH, Feb 25, 2015.

  1. IanH

    IanH Active Member

    Gluten Sensitivity is becoming more common but very often gluten may not be the culprit in causing symptoms. The problem is that people are advised to avoid gluten in order to control their ME/CFS, FM or MS symptoms. Unfortunately, unlike Coeliacs disease there are no lab tests for gluten sensitivity. Some tests are available that purport to test for gluten sensitivity but there are significant problems with this.

    Here are three issues to consider before you decide if you are REALLY gluten sensitive.

    Testing for anti-transglutaminase antibodies and IgA (AGA and EMU) is very complex and can be quite confusing for those not knowledegable about all the issues around these immune system changes, similarly if a lab wants your money for a test they will not necessarily tell you about the issues that render their test weak or invalid.

    1. antiTG antibodies often rise during an infection, particularly during a gut infection. If the tests are done during the period of this infection then a positive test for gluten antibodies is seen. When the infection
    subsides the antibodies are no longer present and a re-test will show a negative result for gluten antibodies.


    Since ME/CFS and FM (as well as MS) are conditions which render the individual to more frequent and persistent infectious states the likelihood of a gluten Ab test being positive is quite high.

    It was thought that there was a relationship between Autism and gluten because there is a higher than normal level of anti-transglutaminase antibodies in those with Autism (or Aspergers).

    However, again these illnesses render people more prone to persistent infections. The research that reported these results did not control for infection at the time of testing and it is most likely that the association between Autism and gluten antibodies temporarily due to the infection at that time. This would be enough to make study results unreliable.

    Many labs that test for Gliadin antibodies do not take this into account. So if you have ME/CFS or FM and are being tested for "gluten sensitivity" you must keep this in mind.

    2. The test for IgA antibodies, AGA and EMA are only 50% accurate either way so chances of a false positive and false negative are around 50%. So these tests are not reliable and are never sufficient to test for Coeliacs
    Disease anyway.

    3. There is now increasing evidence that Gluten sensitivity is mostly not related to gluten at all but related to substances in wheat as well as other sources. These substances are short-chain carbohydrates and are
    sometimes called FODMAPS ( (fermentable, oligo-, di-, monosaccharides, and polyols).

    Tests by Gibson et al have shown that when the FODMAPS are removed from the food people with "gluten sensitivity" can tolerate high levels of gluten normally.

    In fact my own brother was on these studies and had been "gluten sensitive" for many years (Non Coeliacs). He was extremely surprised that he could tolerate a high gluten diet during the research(Low FODMAP foods diet plus pure gluten). He has since reverted to a gluten containing diet but one which is low in FODMAPS.

    Anyone who believes they are "gluten sensitive" but not Coeliacs Disease should consider this issue. However if you are happy on a gluten free diet then that is fine but know that it is probably not necessary. A gluten-free diet is exactly that - "Gluten Free".

    Of course more research into the effects of gluten in the gut are pending.

    Clearly some people may have other problems related to gluten not yet known. There is some evidence that depression is associated with gluten and many illnesses which have "brain fog" as a symptom can be associated with gluten. There is no scientific data to support this yet and it maybe that other dietary factors may account for this association such as the amount of food eaten. Periodic starving or light diets have been associated with mental sharpness for many decades.

    For those interested the low FODMAP foods are listed here:

    The benefit of this is that unlike the gluten-free diet it is not so strict in order to get the results.
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2015
  2. IanH

    IanH Active Member