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Unorthodox testing for coeliac disease and gluten intolerance

It is common to come across inappropriate tests being promoted for the diagnosis of medical conditions, including food intolerances. These tests lack credible evidence, provide misleading results, can delay a correct diagnosis and lead to unnecessary, ineffective and sometimes harmful treatments. And, as they are not rebated by Medicare, they are also at great expense to the individual.

Coeliac Australia encourages the use of legitimate medical channels to access reliable testing methods with management by a suitably qualified medical professional.

Inappropriate use of legitimate tests to ‘diagnose’ gluten intolerance

There is no test for food intolerance (including gluten or wheat intolerance); instead, a supervised temporary elimination diet followed by challenges to identify dietary triggers can be used. Importantly, before undertaking any dietary elimination, exclusion of other diagnoses e.g. coeliac disease should occur.

Gluten Intolerance Genes
We are aware of ‘Genetic testing for gluten intolerance’ is being promoted, for a fee. While gene testing (HLA-typing) can be a useful diagnostic tool when investigating coeliac disease, these genes have no association with gluten intolerance.

IgG antibody testing
IgG antibodies are proteins produced by the immune system in response to exposure to external triggers, like pollens, foods or insect venoms. Their presence reflects exposure to these triggers, not disease that results from exposure. IgG antibodies to food are commonly detectable in healthy adult patients and children, whether food-related symptoms are present or not. There is no credible evidence that measuring IgG antibodies is useful for diagnosing food allergy or intolerance, nor that IgG antibodies cause symptoms. (The only exception is that gliadin IgG antibodies can be used to monitor the success of avoiding gluten in people with proven coeliac disease).

Despite studies showing the ineffectiveness of this technique, it continues to be promoted in the community.

Unproven tests

Unorthodox tests that lack any scientific rationale and have been shown to be inaccurate and unreliable in published studies include: cytotoxic food testing, Vega testing, kinesiology, allergy elimination techniques, iridology, pulse testing, Alcat testing, Rinkel’s intradermal skin testing, reflexology, and hair analysis.
Unfortunately, there are no stringent regulations to control the use of these tests and they can be listed with no scientific evidence. These tests are not without consequence (including high cost) and they may result in overly restrictive diets or delay the diagnosis and treatment of serious disease.