Coeliac disease is an autoimmune condition where the body’s immune system attacks the small intestine in response to the ingestion of gluten.
Non-coeliac gluten sensitivity is when symptoms similar to coeliac disease are experienced, but there is no damage to the lining of the gut. Non-coeliac gluten sensitivity is something that is being recognised as a problem in many countries across the world.
Gluten is a protein found in the grains: wheat, rye, spelt and barley. Gluten is made of up of different types of proteins called gliadins and glutenins. In coeliacs, the gliadin is recognised by the immune system as foreign. When ingested, gliadin proteins reach the small intestine intact and are processed by an enzyme called tissue transglutaminase. This modification makes it easier for the immune system to recognise and attack the gliadin. The immune system then produces antibodies to attack the gliadin, the tissue transglutaminase enzyme and the small intestine lining. This results in inflammation and damage to this delicate absorption surface.
Coeliac disease commonly causes symptoms such as:
- Chronic diarrhoea (or constipation)
- Bulky, pale, foul-smelling stools
- Abdominal pain
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
However, it can also lead to nutrient deficiencies and cause non-digestive symptoms such as:
- Depression and anxiety
- Poor growth in children
- Mouth ulcers
- A skin rash called dermatitis herpetiformis
- Muscle or joint pain
- Fertility problems
In non-coeliac gluten sensitivity there is still an immune reaction to the ingestion of gluten but there are no antibodies directed at the tissue transglutaminase or small intestine lining. The symptoms can be similar but the small intestine remains unharmed.
If you think you may be reacting to foods containing gluten it’s possible to test for different antibodies to determine whether an immune reaction is present and whether it’s a coeliac reaction or not.
The coeliac and gluten sensitivity test measures the full range of different antibodies involved in non-coeliac gluten sensitivity and coeliac disease. The test includes:
Anti-Deamidated Gliadin IgA – tests for antibodies against modified gliadin
Anti-Endomysial IgA antibodies – tests for antibodies that attack the small intestine lining
Anti-Tissue Transglutaminase IgA antibodies – tests for antibodies that attack tissue transglutaminase
Anti-gliadin IgA and IgG antibodies – tests for an immune reaction to gliadin
Total IgA – checks the immune system is function correctly and rules out the chance of a false negative test.
This test is recommended for people who:
Have a family history of coeliac disease and are concerned they react to gluten
Experience digestive discomfort after eating foods such as bread, pasta and baked goods
Suffer from an autoimmune disease, as people with one autoimmune disorder are prone to getting other autoimmune disorders