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How to Get Tested for Celiac Disease (+Self-Care Tips)

Medically Approved by Dr. Edward Salko

Table of Contents

Celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder, triggers the immune system to attack your intestinal cells. As a result, it disrupts nutrient absorption and leads to frequent, foul-smelling diarrhea, constipation, pain, bloating, weight loss, nausea, and vomiting. These symptoms are similar to other gastrointestinal problems, requiring a clustered test for celiac disease to confirm diagnosis. 

Learn how to test for celiac disease and several self-care tips to alleviate the discomfort. 

  1. Tissue Transglutaminase Antibody (tTG-IgA) Test

The tTG-IgA blood test helps diagnose celiac disease by measuring the amount of IgA antibodies that attack the enzyme in the small intestine called tissue transglutaminase(1). These antibodies are produced when a person with celiac disease consumes gluten. 

Keep in mind, however, that a positive tTG-IgA test does not automatically mean celiac disease. The test is also performed to spot other conditions like type 1 diabetes, microscopic colitis, and other autoimmune as well as genetic disorders. Nonetheless, it’s widely considered the most accurate blood test for celiac disease. 

Pro tip: A celiac disease test requires a blood sample collected by a medical professional in the lab. It typically involves venipuncture, where the blood is drawn from the vein. Check out our tips on how to prepare for venipuncture

  1.  Gliadin (Deamidated Peptide) IgA, IgG Blood Test

This blood test detects IgA and IgG antibodies produced in response to the deamidated gliadin peptides (DGP)(2), which are specific components of gluten. It is ideal if you have recently eaten gluten-containing foods or do so regularly. 

Gliadin (deamidated peptide) blood test can be taken alongside the tTG-IgA blood test if you avail of the celiac antibody combo profile blood test, which is a package test for celiac disease. 

  1. Complement C3 Blood Test

The complement C3 blood test is a standard test for autoimmune diseases, including celiac disease. Complement C3 can be deficient among those with celiac disease due to the persistent inflammation in the gut and nutrient malabsorption. As low C3 and other complement proteins are found in other conditions, you’ll likely need to take additional tests. 

  1. HLA Typing for Celiac Disease Blood Test

HLA stands for human leukocyte antigens(3) (HLAs), which are key proteins that allow the immune system to differentiate the body’s own proteins from those of foreign invaders like viruses and bacteria. Certain variants of HLA-carrying genes are associated with celiac disease. 

That said, the HLA typing blood test can potentially rule out celiac disease and determine your risk of developing the condition. 

  1. Endoscopy

If the blood test indicates celiac disease, your doctor will likely perform an endoscopy. This procedure checks for any damage or inflammation in the small intestine, further suggesting celiac disease. 

Upper gastrointestinal endoscopy(4) involves inserting a long, flexible tube with a tiny camera from the mouth down to the intestine to get visuals of the intestinal lining. In some cases, the tube is inserted through a small incision.   

Celiac Disease Self-Care Recommendations

When it comes to managing celiac disease, your primary course of action is to adopt a gluten-free diet(5) (GFD). Your self-care strategy involves creating a diet plan accordingly, addressing the reality of food restrictions, and monitoring nutrient malabsorption. In doing so, consider the following tips. 

  1. Be familiar with foods that contain gluten

Gluten is the primary culprit that triggers celiac disease(6). As the condition is classified as an autoimmune disorder, eating gluten prompts the immune system to attack the intestinal lining by mistake. 

People with celiac disease are advised to remove or limit gluten-containing foods, particularly wheat, rye, and barley.  By extension, you should watch out for food products that contain the abovementioned food, like:

  • Bread
  • Pasta
  • Processed meat
  • Sauces and gravies
  • Oats
  • Crackers
  • Pretzels
  • Cakes and pastries
  1. Make label reading a habit
Medium shot woman holding can

Hidden gluten(7), typically in the form of wheat starch, can be a subtle component in products like soy sauce, salad dressings, marinades, and processed foods. When shopping for groceries, take time to read the food label thoroughly to learn about specific ingredients. 

  1. Learn about gluten-free alternatives
Medium shot woman holding can

Awareness regarding celiac disease and gluten sensitivity made gluten-free alternatives to wheat-based products more widespread. Examples of gluten-free grains(8) include rice, quinoa, and buckwheat. You can replace wheat starch with flour made of almond, rice, or coconut. 

  1. Prepare your food
View of people learning how to make traditional sushi dish

To ensure your meals don’t contain gluten, it is advisable to prepare them yourself. If you’re living with several people at home, set aside your own kitchen tools intended for gluten-free meal prep. Separate your food items so they don’t get in contact with gluten. 

  1. Communicate your dietary restrictions
Happy couple making an order in a cafe while waiter is showing them menu on digital table

Cross-contamination with gluten(9) remains a risk in restaurants and places where various foods are prepared simultaneously. Communicating your gluten restriction can decrease the likelihood of triggering celiac disease. Moreover, consider a place with gluten-free choices. 

  1. Consider taking supplements
Medicine bottles and tablets on wooden desk

Vitamins and other nutritional deficiencies(10) can happen when you have celiac disease. As a result, you may have to take supplements to augment the malabsorption. Be sure to consult your doctor first to identify the specific deficiency accurately. 

  1. Seek support 
people in a support group

Gluten has been part of many staple foods, and it might be challenging to give it up altogether. This move can have an emotional impact that can potentially spiral into depressive symptoms or feeling inadequate. If these happen, it helps to stay close to people who can provide you with much-needed support. You can talk to other people with celiac disease and involve your inner social circle and family in your plan to remove gluten from your diet. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What can be mistaken for celiac disease?

Celiac disease resembles other digestive problems in terms of several symptoms, which is why they are sometimes mistakenly identified as celiac disease. These conditions include gluten sensitivity, wheat allergy, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and lactose intolerance. To properly isolate celiac disease from these other diseases, you’ll have to undergo a medical diagnosis carried out by your doctor.

Is celiac disease curable?

Unfortunately, celiac disease doesn’t have a cure yet. Like many autoimmune diseases, celiac disease can be managed, which means you can still live a fulfilling life even with the condition at hand. These include following a tailored diet plan and maintaining the intake of certain medications your doctor prescribes. 

Can people with celiac disease live long?

If you’re diagnosed with celiac disease, you can still live life within normal longevity. Your lifespan does not shorten with the condition, especially if celiac disease is diagnosed early and you’re following a strict gluten-free diet. 

In addition, the complications associated with celiac disease can also be managed. Ultimately, what determines your life expectancy if you have celiac disease is how you take full control of your health. 

The Bottom Line

Testing for celiac disease allows you to move forward to treatment and management that help you manage the discomforts of the disease. As the condition bears similarities with other gastrointestinal problems, a property diagnosis draws the line and underscores celiac disease. If you experience symptoms of celiac disease, avoid self-diagnosing. Instead, talk to your doctor so you can get tested for celiac disease in the right medical setting. 

Sources

1 Hojsak I, Shamir R. Tissue transglutaminase antibodies in celiac disease: focus on the pediatric population. Drugs Today (Barc). 2011 Sep;47(9):683-91. doi: 10.1358/dot.2011.47.9.1682709. PMID: 21971542.

2 Al-Hussaini A, Al-Jurayyan A, Alharbi S, Salman Bashir M, Troncone R. Performance of deamidated gliadin peptide antibodies as first screening for celiac disease in the general pediatric population. Front Pediatr. 2023 Nov 21;11:1279825. doi: 10.3389/fped.2023.1279825. PMID: 38078323; PMCID: PMC10703185.

3 Lázár-Molnár E, Snyder M. The Role of Human Leukocyte Antigen in Celiac Disease Diagnostics. Clin Lab Med. 2018 Dec;38(4):655-668. doi: 10.1016/j.cll.2018.07.007. Epub 2018 Oct 5. PMID: 30420059.

4 Stefanolo JP, Zingone F, Gizzi C, Marsilio I, Espinet ML, Smecuol EG, Khaouli M, Moreno ML, Pinto-Sánchez MI, Niveloni SI, Verdú EF, Ciacci C, Bai JC. Upper gastrointestinal endoscopic findings in celiac disease at diagnosis: A multicenter international retrospective study. World J Gastroenterol. 2022 Nov 21;28(43):6157-6167. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v28.i43.6157. PMID: 36483156; PMCID: PMC9724482.

5 Aljada B, Zohni A, El-Matary W. The Gluten-Free Diet for Celiac Disease and Beyond. Nutrients. 2021 Nov 9;13(11):3993. doi: 10.3390/nu13113993. PMID: 34836247; PMCID: PMC8625243.

6 Taylor AK, Lebwohl B, Snyder CL, Green PHR. Celiac Disease. 2008 Jul 3 [updated 2019 Jan 31]. In: Adam MP, Feldman J, Mirzaa GM, Pagon RA, Wallace SE, Bean LJH, Gripp KW, Amemiya A, editors. GeneReviews® [Internet]. Seattle (WA): University of Washington, Seattle; 1993–2024. PMID: 20301720.

7 Wieser H, Segura V, Ruiz-Carnicer Á, Sousa C, Comino I. Food Safety and Cross-Contamination of Gluten-Free Products: A Narrative Review. Nutrients. 2021 Jun 29;13(7):2244. doi: 10.3390/nu13072244. PMID: 34210037; PMCID: PMC8308338.

8 Niro S, D’Agostino A, Fratianni A, Cinquanta L, Panfili G. Gluten-Free Alternative Grains: Nutritional Evaluation and Bioactive Compounds. Foods. 2019 Jun 12;8(6):208. doi: 10.3390/foods8060208. PMID: 31212866; PMCID: PMC6617389.

9 Wieser H, Segura V, Ruiz-Carnicer Á, Sousa C, Comino I. Food Safety and Cross-Contamination of Gluten-Free Products: A Narrative Review. Nutrients. 2021 Jun 29;13(7):2244. doi: 10.3390/nu13072244. PMID: 34210037; PMCID: PMC8308338.

10 Verma AK. Nutritional Deficiencies in Celiac Disease: Current Perspectives. Nutrients. 2021 Dec 15;13(12):4476. doi: 10.3390/nu13124476. PMID: 34960029; PMCID: PMC8703793.

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