Stop! If you’re contemplating a gluten-free diet, or believe you have celiac disease or gluten intolerance, don’t go gluten-free yet. Before ditching gluten for good, consider the information I discuss in this article before implementing a gluten-free diet. This post contains affiliate links. Please see my disclosures.
Are you curious if the gluten-free diet is right for you? Maybe you’re experiencing symptoms concurrent with celiac disease, or you feel sick after eating wheat.
Before you ditch gluten – a protein found in wheat, rye, barley, and sometimes oats – for good, there are a few essential things you must do first, like rule out celiac disease or more serious conditions (more on that in a bit).
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder and lifelong condition. If you’ve been diagnosed with celiac disease, it’s essential that you go gluten-free right away.
However, going gluten-free is more complicated for people who suspect they have non-celiac gluten sensitivity or gluten intolerance, and I’m asking that you don’t change your diet until you read this important article.
Why First Rule Out Celiac Disease
If you’re ready to experiment with your diet by ditching gluten, please get tested for celiac disease first. This is essential to do, and few people heed this advice.
Why? For a celiac disease test to be accurate, you must have gluten in your system. However, if you eliminated gluten and feel better, then the thought of going back on gluten just to get tested for celiac disease will not be a pleasant undertaking.
Plus, your tolerance to gluten worsens over time, and even a little gluten will make you feel sick to your stomach quite literally!
Everyone will ask you, “Do you have celiac disease?” and you’ll have to reply, “I don’t know.” But there will always be this nagging feeling inside you questioning whether you have celiac disease.
Then, to get tested for celiac disease, you’ll have to go back to eating gluten, known as The Gluten Challenge, which is a painful endeavor for many people who have sworn off gluten for good and have successfully healed their bodies.
Do yourself a favor and rule out celiac disease first. You can take this trusted and easy at-home test, or make an appointment with your doctor to get tested.
Below are the six main reasons why it’s important to rule out celiac disease before going gluten-free:
Reason #1: You’ll Take Your Diet More Serious
Many people don’t take their self-diagnosed, self-imposed gluten-free diet as seriously as someone with a firm celiac diagnosis. If you’re gluten-free by choice, you’re more likely to cheat on your gluten-free diet or not worry about the perils of gluten cross-contamination.
I know many people with gluten sensitivity who experience worse symptoms than me. And people with gluten intolerance statistically have a higher early mortality rate than someone with celiac disease, likely because they’re more like to cheat on their gluten-free diet, whereas people with celiac disease are more likely to adhere to the diet strictly.
I recommend reading, Don’t Cheat On Your Gluten-Free Diet, to see the research and additional information about how gluten can affect both people with celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity.
Reason #2: You Need to Know the Extent of the Damage
If you have celiac disease, the microvilli surrounding the small intestine are severely damaged, which has likely led to various nutritional deficiencies that must be addressed. Many people with celiac disease never go on to fully recover the mucosal lining surrounding their small intestines.
People with celiac disease will need to take measures to heal their guts beyond the gluten-free diet in order to accelerate healing from within. It took me years to feel better in the aftermath of my celiac diagnosis, and it’s something I write about extensively in my book.
Furthermore, people with celiac disease are at risk of getting additional autoimmune conditions and nutritional deficiencies, which may require specific supplementation. These same nutritional deficiencies may or may not be present in people with gluten intolerance.
Reason #3: Celiac Researchers Need Accurate Statistics
Researchers need to understand the prevalence of celiac disease in the U.S. and worldwide. Right now, about one percent of the U.S. population has celiac disease, yet researchers in Denver found the rate of celiac disease to be three times higher when they screened children for the disorder over a 20-year period.
This means the prevalence of celiac disease may be much higher than experts initially thought, and more screening and diagnostics can help us get a more accurate picture of this potential epidemic.
Remember, as the number of cases of celiac disease rises, so does interest from researchers, doctors, pharmaceutical companies, food companies, restaurants, etc.
Currently, celiac disease is one of the most prevalent digestive diseases, yet it receives the least funding! Researchers will be more likely to spend resources on celiac disease, potentially in search of a cure or treatment options, knowing it affects a larger number of people.
Unfortunately, researchers at Rutgers University found the rates of celiac diagnosis stagnant for the first time since 2009. However, this number is skewed because many self-diagnose themselves as “gluten intolerant” without first ruling out celiac disease.
When you don’t first rule out celiac disease, you make it impossible to determine the true prevalence of celiac disease. Worse, researchers might see the number of cases decreases, which could cause fewer resources in the search for a cure or better treatment options beyond the gluten-free diet.
Reason #4: Be Eligible for Future Celiac Treatments
People with confirmed cases of celiac disease will be eligible for future treatment options should they become available. These options may not be available for people without a proper diagnosis.
Again, in order to be tested for celiac disease, you must be eating gluten. Many people may opt to go back on gluten in order to get tested (i.e., take The Gluten Challenge), but for most, it’s a painful undertaking and one I don’t recommend.
It’s easy to rule out celiac disease with this simple at-home celiac disease test (pictured below).
Reason #5: Become Eligible for Tax Deductions
If you live in the U.S., you can deduct the cost of gluten-free foods as a medical expense. To do so, you’ll need a doctor’s note saying you have celiac disease. You can learn more about how to deduct gluten-free foods from your taxes in this article.
In countries such as Finland and Italy, the government gives people with celiac disease a stipend to cover the higher food costs associated with a gluten-free diet. Should a subsidy program become available in the U.S., you’ll need a firm celiac diagnosis.
Reason #6: You Want to Know
Many people with non-celiac gluten sensitivity had told me that they wished they had been tested for celiac disease before they went gluten-free.
They just want to know, but they may never know if they have celiac or gluten intolerance, and they’re not willing to undergo The Gluten Challenge to find out.
If I’ve caught you before you started the gluten-free diet, and you’re ready to get tested for celiac disease, here’s what you need to do:
(1) First, get tested for celiac disease with a simple blood test. You can get tested by your doctor or do it with this at-home celiac disease test kit.
A celiac disease blood test is 98 percent accurate if a patient has a positive celiac test; however, there can be false negatives. Therefore, a blood test cannot rule out celiac disease completely.
Suppose you have a negative blood test, but your symptoms align with those of someone with celiac disease. In that case, your doctor may recommend you undergo an endoscopy so he or she can examine and biopsy your small intestine. A biopsy will reveal if you’re experiencing damage congruent with celiac disease.
(2) Next, if you’ve ruled out celiac disease, consider that you might have gluten sensitivity. One in four people in the U.S. has a wheat-related disorder. T
o determine if a person has gluten intolerance, they must eliminate gluten from their diet for 4-6 weeks and monitor how they feel after reintroducing gluten.
Read more about this important topic in my article Do You Have Gluten Intolerance? How to Test for Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity.
(3) If you’ve successfully ruled out celiac disease and gluten (or wheat) sensitivity but still suffer from various chronic ailments, continue to talk with your doctor.
You might have another condition, such as small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), candida, or H. Pylori.
These conditions are treated with different dietary changes and possibly antibiotics or antifungal medications prescribed by your doctor.
Did you know that eliminating gluten from your diet can lead to many other potential issues, such as nutritional and fiber deficiencies, increased heavy metal exposure, and weight gain? I discuss the dangers of the gluten-free diet in detail in my article, 5 Dangers Associated with the Gluten-Free Diet.
Also, regardless if you go gluten-free, consider the impact various foods have on your health and take the time to clean up your diet.
Eat plenty of naturally gluten-free foods, including anti-inflammatory foods like fruits and vegetables, fiber, lean proteins, and whole gluten-free grains like quinoa, lentils, and gluten-free oats. Avoid packaged foods and excessive sugar.
I also recommend talking to your healthcare team about taking various supplements to help your body heal and maintain whole-body health. You can see a list of supplements I take and recommend in my article Supplements for Celiac Disease and Gluten Intolerance.
Finally, if you’ve ruled out celiac disease and are ready to go gluten-free, read my article, 10 Tips to Getting Started on a Gluten-Free Diet.