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What Is a Gluten Allergy Test?

By A.M. Boyle
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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A gluten allergy test generally consists of a series of procedures to determine whether an individual has a sensitivity to foods containing gluten. Generally, as a first step in gluten allergy testing, a patient undergoes certain blood tests to rule out other causative conditions, particularly celiac disease. A skin prick test is usually performed to clarify whether an individual has a true gluten allergy or other type of food allergy. In addition to the skin prick test, an elimination diet is often used as another determinative gluten allergy test.

The symptoms of a gluten allergy often mimic symptoms of other conditions, especially celiac disease. A certain blood test to measure the levels of particular antibodies might therefore be required. The blood test is not a gluten allergy test per se but is used primarily to rule out celiac disease. Another type of blood test, called an erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) test, might also be ordered to determine whether inflammation indicative of celiac disease is present. Occasionally, a stool fat test might be recommended to determine if there are high levels of fecal fat, which could also indicate celiac disease.

Once celiac disease is effectively ruled out, the next step in gluten allergy test protocol is usually a skin prick test. During a skin prick test, drops of solutions containing potential allergens, including gluten, are placed on a person’s skin. Tiny scratches or pinpricks are made to allow the drops to enter the skin. The patient is then monitored for skin reactions, such as hives or rashes. If the reaction occurs in response to the substance with the gluten allergen, the test is considered positive, indicating that the individual does have an allergy to gluten.

In some cases, if a skin prick test is negative but symptoms persist, an elimination diet might be recommended. An elimination diet is typically the most time-consuming and difficult gluten allergy test. Foods containing gluten are strategically removed from a person’s diet, and the person is monitored to see if the symptoms ease. If the symptoms abate, the foods pinpointed are reintroduced, and if the symptoms return, the gluten allergy is usually confirmed. Many of the foods that contain gluten also contain other possible allergens, such as wheat or dairy, so the process of elimination can be tedious and time intensive.

When an allergy is confirmed using a gluten allergy test, an individual’s diet will generally be modified to exclude foods containing gluten. Gluten is present in a large variety of foods, and a person with a gluten allergy must learn to carefully read all food labels. An individual eliminating gluten from his or her diet might need to obtain the help of a dietitian in planning nutritious, gluten-free meals.

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