A rapidly growing number of people are turning to gluten-free diets to cure all kinds of ailments. If the removal of gluten results in symptoms decreasing or disappearing, then all is well, right?
Not so fast. There are very important reasons to get tested for celiac disease before you eliminate gluten from your diet, and we’ve got the 5 main reasons detailed for you here.
If you decide to test for celiac later on, you’ll have to do a gluten challenge. Celiac testing (which includes blood tests and an endoscopy), looks for your body’s reaction to gluten and for intestinal damage. If your body hasn’t experienced gluten for a while, you could end up getting a false negative. This means that if you are eating a gluten-free diet, you won’t have antibodies to gluten in your blood and your intestines may not show damage, even if you do have celiac. Gluten challenges involve up to 8 weeks of eating pretty large amounts of gluten, making life pretty uncomfortable and even downright unbearable.
Additional Complications That Come With Celiac
Without the test results, you won’t know if you are at risk for other celiac related complications, such as osteoporosis, malnutrition, and infertility. These conditions can generally be kept at bay on a strict gluten-free diet, but without a celiac diagnosis you may not be as motivated to stick to the diet.
The Genetic Component
Individuals who test positive for celiac disease are asked to notify their family members, who should also be tested for celiac even if they don’t have symptoms. If you are unaware of your status, you won’t be able to advise your family members to be tested as well, which could possibly save them from future health complications. Celiac disease is frequently not diagnosed and can lead to serious health issues, so this is a super important reason! This is also important because you may pass on celiac to your children, so it’s crucial for you to know your status if you have children or plan on having them in the future.
There are many reasons why removing gluten from your diet may make you feel better, for example because it removes things like wheat and a lot of junk and fried foods from your diet. Temporarily feeling better could be causing you to ignore a serious health issue, delaying diagnosis and treatment for a possibly serious condition. Additionally, celiac requires medical follow-up for a variety of reasons, so an accurate diagnosis is important. Even if the culprit is gluten sensitivity, that and celiac are different in important ways. They are not the same disease, and they require different treatment. Having a celiac test is the first step in diagnosing gluten sensitivity, as it either eliminates celiac as the culprit or confirms it.
Increased Costs/Missed Benefits
Eating gluten-free is expensive! Gluten is hiding in everything, from salad dressings to toothpaste, and even makeup. If you have celiac, guaranteeing the strict removal of gluten is crucial, but not necessarily if you have gluten sensitivity or other health issues. Additionally, a celiac diagnosis provides you with various benefits, including tax benefits and various accommodations for children and college students. Without signed documentation from a licensed physician, these benefits will be unavailable to you or your children.
Also, let’s be honest, if you are certain that your gluten intolerance has added complications such as osteoporosis, infertility and (in rare cases) cancer, you will be much more likely to strictly follow the diet and never give in to temptation. And as we’ve seen above, gluten-free dieting is challenging, time consuming, restrictive and down right expensive! The obvious right decision for your health and well-being is to find out whether or not you test positive for celiac before beginning a gluten-free diet.
We would love to hear any other reasons that you have for testing for celiac before beginning a gluten-free diet!