Ask The Allergista: Is there a link between Eczema and gluten?

Since I avoid wheat because of the nickel content, not the whole gluten thing (and my skin HAS improved since I cut it out), I'm not well versed in eczema related to celiac disease. I've tested negative for it over and over. I know somebody who is, though! My friend Amanda over at Celiac and Allergy Adventures. So, I hit her up and got an answer for our reader ;-)

Q:

I had a question for you about gluten. I have heard all kinds of different information and I find myself pretty confused by it overall. I have had an IgG test done that came up positive for gluten. It was done by a naturopath. However, every regular GP I see does not find the test effective for any kind of sensitivity or allergy to gluten. (They pretty much say it's a bogus test, and that it shows levels of gluten and that's about it) I also recently had a "prick" skin test done which included dairy and gluten. That test came up negative. I have never had a doctor tell me to stay away from gluten, or that it would benefit me in any way. I do however avoid it just because I'm not sure what makes my skin better or worse.

I see that lots of people with eczema avoid it and I wasn't sure if there was actual science anywhere that proved there was a link between dermatitis, or eczema, and gluten. Love to hear your thoughts...

A:

IgG testing is not viewed as reliable by physicians (I wrote a post about it here).  Labs measure the degree of IgG antibody that binds to any particular food in these types of testing, often resulting in HUGE amounts of foods to avoid.  Doctors think the presence of the IgG antibody simply means there is a level of this food in your body.  Skin prick tests are to detect allergies to a particular substance based on the appearance of hives, a rash or anaphylaxis.

Celiac Disease panel would measure a few different antibodies and based on those results, would potentially lead to an endoscopy.  In the absence of GI issues, other symptoms of Celiac Disease or a family history of Celiac Disease, I wouldn't conclude that you need to eliminate gluten.  However, "eczema occurs about three times more frequently in celiac disease patients and about two times more frequently in relatives of celiac disease patients, potentially indicating a genetic link between the two conditions."

If you have symptoms of both eczema and Celiac Disease, I'd recommend getting screened for Celiac Disease.  But really, the main thing is: if you feel better on a gluten-free diet and your eczema improves, great.  You should listen to your body and just make sure you're eating a variety of naturally gluten-free foods and gluten-free whole grains.