In preparation for Coeliac Awareness Week, which runs from May 9 to May 13, the Coeliac Society of Ireland has issued a stark warning about the inaccuracies and unreliabilities associated with popular food intolerance tests.
While these tests are marketed as diagnosing food intolerance, it has since emerged that an increasing number of people are using them to try and find out whether they have coeliac disease.
Speaking at the launch of Coeliac Awareness Week 2022, dietitian and nutritionist Sarah Keogh RD said that food intolerance tests are known to be unreliable because they are not able to determine whether or not someone is coeliac or even intolerant to gluten.
The Coeliac Society believes thousands of people who are using tests marketed as food intolerance tests – either at home or in medical clinics – in an attempt to diagnose gastrointestinal issues could be doing themselves more harm than good because of misleading and inaccurate marketing that surrounds this multi-million industry.
Ms Keogh said: “Food intolerance tests are causing quite a few issues for the Society just now. They are really popular because you can get them online or spend more to do the test in a clinic.”
Ms Keogh notes, “Unfortunately, the science shows that these tests do not diagnose food intolerance. Most people who go for these tests don’t know that and so they’re spending lots of money and possibly doing long term harm to their health by putting faith in the so-called results that these tests are providing.”
“One of these tests which is particularly problematic is a blood test called an IgG – or immunoglobulin G – test. This is where a person has a blood sample taken, either at a clinic or with a kit they use at home. This sample is then sent to a laboratory where the sample is tested for IgG levels to a range of foods.”
“IgG is an immune protein in the body and according to the companies selling these tests, if you have a high IgG reaction for a food it can mean that you are intolerant to that food. However, there is no scientific evidence that IgG test results reflect any actual food intolerances or sensitivity, and they certainly don’t tell you if you are coeliac. In fact, the current science shows that these tests probably only tell a person what they have eaten recently.”
The Coeliac Society of Ireland’s advice is that a positive or negative result in a test sold as a food intolerance test is unlikely to be specifically related to any symptom or clinical condition. The only reliable way to determine if you have coeliac disease is to get a blood test done with your GP. For these tests to be accurate, you must be eating gluten for at least 6 weeks up to the time of the test.
Consultant paediatrician Alfonso Rodriguez Herrera, MD, PhD, who is Assistant Clinical Professor of Medicine at UCD, added: “The Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) has been very clear that IgG tests do not diagnose food intolerance. It is perfectly normal for IgG levels to increase when someone eats a food – it does not mean that the person is intolerant to the food, it is just normal functioning of the immune system.”
“Unfortunately, people think, ‘Well, I’ve gone for this test and it didn’t show up gluten so I must not be coeliac’. Often, this means they don’t go to their doctor for a proper coeliac test resulting in delayed diagnosis because of the misinformation it provided.”
“People who use the tests without proper medical follow-up are still potentially coeliac and still face the symptoms like abdominal pain, recurring mouth-ulcers, weight-loss, vomiting and diarrhoea because they are still exposed to gluten in their daily lives.”
“Delayed or misdiagnosis is the biggest issue with coeliac disease. When someone continues undiagnosed then they are at greater risk of developing other health conditions such as osteoporosis, fertility issues, liver abnormalities, and even some forms of cancer.”
“We’ve seen recently how damaging misinformation can be when it comes to diet and health implications. The public needs to be aware that tests currently sold as food intolerance tests are not reliable.”
Coeliac awareness week commences on Monday, May 9 and you can register on www.coeliac.ie to attend talks, information meetings and to find out more about Coeliac Disease and gluten intolerance. Kindly supported by Promise Gluten Free it is a must attend event for all people concerned about their gut health and are living gluten free.