Cross-contamination causes an immune attack
Celiac disease is an auto-immune disease which means the immune system recognizes gluten as bad, in other words, your enemy. With auto-immune disease, your immune system is actually fighting against you instead of working for you. After gluten is ingested, antibodies are created to fight against gluten causing an immune reaction. This reaction occurs in the lining of the small intestine and results in severe inflammation and damage to the intestinal lining.
Antibody levels measure disease activity
As a physician assistant in family medicine, I see and treat people with celiac disease and we measure antibody levels to see how well the disease is controlled. The most useful and reliable antibody test is called tissue transglutaminase antibody. This blood test will tell you the amount of antibodies that are floating around in your blood stream. Normal antibody levels mean you are doing an excellent job of avoiding gluten and sources of cross-contamination.
High antibody levels mean your body is in a continuous state of fighting something bad; this immune reaction is not normal and leads to serious damage to your small intestine. You may not have any symptoms whatsoever, but if you were to look inside your intestine, you would see an angry mess.
Why is this important? Because your small intestine plays a major role in digesting and absorbing essential nutrients from your food. Poor intestinal function = poor nutrition = bad health consequences. These consequences include growth delay in children, anemia, osteoporosis, infertility, neuropathy, memory and psychological problems, even a rare type of cancer.
It takes just traces of gluten to cause this destructive immune reaction. Small amounts of exposure through cross-contamination are just enough to cause this negative chain of events. For many people, cross-contamination is the reason they are not getting better. Therefore, it is a very important subject.
Normal antibody levels should be your goal
It is important to have this blood test about six months after diagnosis, and again one year after diagnosis. If your levels are dropping down into a normal range - you are in great shape, and you are using good practices to prevent cross-contamination. If your levels remain above normal - and you feel you are doing everything right - you are likely experiencing a problem with cross-contamination.
Read more to discover where you can find those sneaky sources of cross-contamination.