The genetic connection with celiac disease may surprise some people because a celiac disease diagnosis was pretty rare prior to this generation. But it was there, even if it wasn’t diagnosed or even if people didn’t discuss their undiagnosed symptoms openly (symptoms like flatulence and diarrhea aren’t often casual conversation topics at family reunions).
You can get a genetic test to determine if you have the genes HLA-DQ2 or HLA-DQ8. If you do, you have a much greater chance of developing celiac disease than the general population. Please note that this does not mean you have celiac disease and it isn’t a guarantee you will develop this condition; it just puts you in a higher risk group.
It is possible (and statistically-speaking, even likely) to have these genes and go your whole life without developing celiac disease. While about 40% of the general population have one of these genes, about 1% of the general population have celiac disease, so a majority of people with the genes don’t have celiac disease. As is often the case, you should discuss the matter with your doctor before jumping to any conclusions
However, if you discover you have one or both of these genes, you might keep an eye out for any developing symptoms. It’s important not to become paranoid, but if you know you have a genetic predisposition for this condition and you start experiencing some key symptoms that don’t have any other diagnosis, you’ll want to talk to your doctor about your family history and your symptoms. If you happen to develop celiac disease it’s better to get an accurate diagnosis sooner rather than later.
In particular, if you have one or both of these genes and you’ve been diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), then you need to have a detailed conversation with your doctor. Your risk also jumps exponentially if you have one or both of these genes and you’ve been diagnosed with any other autoimmune diseases (such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis or others).
It’s also important to note that you can have a non-celiac gluten sensitivity or a wheat allergy and not have these genes. In addition, recent research suggests that in some rare cases elderly men with celiac disease may also test negative for these genes. So some argue the genetic test may be of limited value.