Why Your Doctor Doesn’t Know You Have a Gluten Allergy

Dr. Frank Shallenberger, MD

May 18, 2020



I told you last August that if you have rheumatoid arthritis or depression, it’s possible your condition is actually a symptom of another problem.

And that underlying cause could be an allergy to gluten. Gluten is a protein that’s found in wheat, barley, and rye. Unfortunately, your doctor may tell you there’s nothing you can do about your condition but take drugs.

That’s because your doctor may not know that you have a gluten allergy. Even if you’re tested for a gluten allergy, your doctor still may not know.

The traditional way to diagnose whether or not a patient’s condition is the result of a gluten allergy is by getting a blood test.

This test looks at how many antibodies you have to something called gliadin, a protein found in gluten. If the levels are high, then there’s a greater likelihood that a gluten allergy is causing the disease.

However, this test isn’t perfect. In fact, you can have a normal result on the test and still have a gluten allergy. I’ve seen many patients test normal, but still have a gluten allergy.

Now a startling study has validated my observations. And I hope that doctors and patients alike pay attention to it. The results of this study imply that there are an awful lot of people out there who are sensitive to gluten, but their doctor misses the diagnosis because the antibody test doesn’t show it.

Why Your Doctor Missed Your Gluten Allergy

The researchers learned about the test’s lack of accuracy by studying a group of children with celiac disease. Celiac disease is a condition that primarily causes intestinal symptoms such as diarrhea, constipation, bloating, and cramps.

But celiac disease can also cause a multitude of other symptoms, such as rashes, joint pains, muscle cramps, fatigue, moodiness, and many other symptoms. Celiac disease is a severe allergy to gluten. Take gluten out of the diet, and you cure the disease.

The researchers looked at a group of 166 children with known celiac disease. They confirmed the diagnosis in all of them by taking an actual biopsy of the intestines. So there was no doubt about the accuracy of the diagnosis in these children.

Then the researchers checked to see how many of them had a positive anti-gliadin antibody test. If the test was accurate, they should have found that 100% were positive. But that’s not what happened.

Instead they found that 56 of them (33.7%) had normal anti-gliadin antibody levels. The authors noted that even when these children ate gluten, they still did not show excessive levels of the antibodies.

So for many children – and presumably adults as well – simply measuring antibodies to gluten will not be enough to determine everyone who has an allergy. Up to one-third of all people with gluten sensitivity will have normal antibody levels.

This study is vitally important because there are so many different symptoms that gluten can cause. It proves that there are many people suffering from all kinds of conditions that they could easily cure simply by staying away from gluten.

Most doctors just rely on the gluten antibody tests to determine gluten sensitivity. But now you know that you can’t rely on the test alone to determine whether gluten is a problem for you or not.

How to Find Out if You’re Sensitive to Gluten

If you have rheumatoid arthritis, depression, or any other unexplained symptoms, there’s only one other way you can know for sure if gluten is the culprit. You have to go on a gluten-free diet for four weeks to see what happens.

Over the years, I have seen many patients who supposedly did not have a gluten allergy because of negative blood tests. When they go on the gluten-free diet, it cures them. In many cases, it really is that simple.

So now we have proof that you can’t rely simply on blood testing to tell you whether or not your symptoms are the result of a gluten allergy.

The best way to know for sure is go on a gluten-free diet for at least four weeks, and see if the symptoms get better. If they show any improvement at all, then stay on the diet for a minimum of three months to see the full effect.



Caristo, E., E. Tognato, G. Di Dio, A. Rapa, and P. Fonio. “Increasing prevalence of celiac children with negative serum antigliadin antibodies.” Minerva Pediatr. 2010 April;62(2):119-23.

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