Negative Test for Celiac? You May Still Develop the Disease
I think most of us understand that just because we don’t have heart disease today, it doesn’t mean that we cannot develop it sometime later in life. Ditto for diabetes, cancer and most all degenerative diseases. Why then, once someone has been tested for celiac disease once, do they think they never have to test for it again? Why do I hear from individuals across the country and around the world who think that one negative test confers life-long immunity?
Is it because celiac disease is a genetic condition? Do we assume that it’s impossible to develop later in life?
In defense of how this inappropriate practice likely got started, I’m sure it stemmed from the erroneous idea that a genetic disease was something that you had or you didn’t have and the passage of time was not going to change that. The thought was that if testing was found to be negative, then it was never needed to be retested since genes don’t alter themselves.
While it is perfectly true that genes do not change, it turns out that the EXPRESSION of genes does. This means that you can have the genes for a specific disease but the gene can be either ‘turned off’ or ‘turned on’. If a gene is in the ‘off’ position, the individual will not be expressing the disease, despite having the genes for it. Once the gene is turned ‘on’, the disease is now fully expressed.
This data is not completely new because we know that 35 to 40% of our population carries the genes for celiac disease while only 1 to 5% actually develops the disease. So obviously there is more to having active celiac disease than simply having the genes and eating gluten.
If the aforementioned 5% incidence of celiac disease sounds surprising it is because the research is only about a week old! On May 15th 2012 a study titled: “The Incidence and Risk of Celiac Disease in a Healthy US Adult Population” was published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology. The authors stated that as the population they studied aged (over 35 years old), their incidence of celiac disease increased from 1% to 5%. The group they studied were active American military.
What is that elusive third factor? What determines if your immune system will keep a bad gene turned off or allow it to be turned on?
It turns out that the health of your small intestine and the good bacteria housed therein has everything to do with the expression of your genes and, more specifically, whether you will have active celiac disease or not. The health of that very important small intestine is not static. It can change over time depending on the state of your diet, the quality of the food you eat, whether you take medications or are exposed to toxins. Many factors affect the health of the small intestine and most of them are lifestyle related – meaning that you have control over them.
Imagine if there was a meter of some sort that warned you when you were nearing critical mass for gene expression. What if you received a text message that said: “Your genes are under great stress and are about to allow disease ’X’ to express itself. If you don’t take drastic action to reverse this process you will develop disease ‘X’, a degenerative disorder (think heart disease, cancer, diabetes, celiac disease).
That would be very helpful, wouldn’t it? Unfortunately no such ‘message’ is going to be received. But what you can do is find out if you have a strong or weak small intestine – a leaky gut. You can evaluate the health of the probiotic population that is so critical in gene expression. You can find out if any infections of the small intestine are weakening its health and that of the immune system. You can find out if the immune system is so overwhelmed that it is moving towards autoimmune disease (celiac is one of over 100 autoimmune diseases), our third leading cause of death in the US.
You can do all of the above relatively easily and it may very well prevent a lifetime of chronic disease.
Please share this information with those you know and care about. If you are gluten intolerant you likely know others that you suspect have the problem. Let them know that a single negative test doesn’t mean that they can’t later develop the condition. Also, testing is not perfect. Backing up a negative test with a 30 day gluten elimination diet is a valid test in itself. If you feel better after eliminating gluten you have your answer. Ignoring a gluten intolerance is a bit like playing Russian roulette – it can end your life prematurely.
I am committed to increasing awareness of gluten intolerance and would love your assistance. Share this post and others like it to friends and family. Together we can raise the diagnosis rate of celiac disease from the paltry 3 to 5% that it is to the 95%+ range that it deserves to be. So many lives will be saved from this effort.
Have you experienced being told that a single test is all you would ever need? I’d love to hear back from you.
Our destination clinic treats patients from across the country and internationally. If you would like assistance to improve your health, please call us for a free health analysis. We are here to help! Call 408-733-0400.
To your good health.
Dr Vikki Petersen, DC, CCN
Founder of HealthNOW Medical Center
Co-author of “The Gluten Effect”
Author of the e-Book: “Gluten Intolerance: What you don’t know may be killing you!”
Nominated Gluten Free Doctor of the Year 2012