Beyond Celiac: Why Is My Child Having a Reaction Even After Testing Negative for Celiac?

Celiac Disease is an autoimmune disorder that can be triggered when a protein called gluten has been consumed. Gluten can be found in many of the foods that we eat, including wheat, barley and rye. If your child is complaining of bloating, having digestive issues including abdominal pain, diarrhea or constipation, it may be time to see if they are suffering from a gluten allergy and even celiac disease. Other symptoms include skin problems, headaches, and unexplained weight loss.

When a child suffering from celiac disease consumes gluten, the protein interferes with the absorption of nutrients from food by damaging a part of the small intestine called “villi”. When your child has damaged villi, it’s hard for the body to absorb nutrients which can lead to problems down the road that include some cancers, thyroid disease, osteoporosis, infertility and the onset of other autoimmune diseases.

It’s important to get a confirmed diagnosis if you suspect your child has celiac disease.  Often, the testing done initially is a simple blood test. Another test that typically follows is an intestinal biopsy. This is a safe, non-surgical procedure that is considered the “gold standard” for a celiac diagnosis. Celiac disease can be tricky because there are some individuals that do not exhibit outward symptoms. Risk factors of celiac, like having a family member with celiac disease, should be tested even if symptoms are not present. At Association of Childcare Physicians, we can order one or more tests to measure your child’s response to gluten.

Celiac blood tests include Total IgA, IgA-tTG, IgA-EMA, and if IgAis low, IgG TTG or IgG-DGP can be ordered. Depending on the consultation, additional testing can also be ordered. Before any blood test, it’s important to feed your child a normal, gluten meal to accurately assess their tolerance to gluten. If gluten is eliminated, it will not produce an accurate test.

Depending on the results of the tests, our pediatricians may recommend a pediatric gastroenterologist. This type of specialist can confirm the diagnosis with an edoscopy. If the testing does not indicate your child has celiac disease, there are still options available. We can recommend a trial gluten-free diet to see if that relieves symptoms. If your child starts to feel better, it’s likely they have non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Keeping your child on a gluten-free diet is the answer to your child also being symptom-free.

If your child is not diagnosed with celiac disease, we can always re-test them for celiac disease in 1-3 years. For young children (under 3 years of age) blood tests may not always be as accurate. Scheduling an appointment to talk to a gastroenterologist for testing and further direction may be the best course of action. A genetic test to determine if your child has the HLA-DQ2 or HLA-Q8 genes may also be recommended. Please note, without these two genes, it’s almost impossible to develop celiac disease. We’d be happy to speak with you if your child tests positive for either of these genes to figure out the next steps.

So, what should you do if you suspect your child has a gluten allergy? Schedule an appointment with us by calling (618) 235-2311. You can also visit our website at and sign in to our patient portal for answers to your questions. At Association of Childcare Physicians, Dr. Kellow and Dr. Shaw’s main goal is to make sure your children live healthy, quality lives, offering top-notch medical care.