While the gluten-free diet has been getting a lot of attention lately, many people still lack information about the diseases that would cause one to eliminate gluten from their life. Because much of the information about celiac disease is anecdotal, incomplete or otherwise difficult to understand, myths develop around what causes it, and how individuals should manage it.
In this post I’d like to address ten of these frustrating celiac disease myths, starting with the most infuriating…
Celiac Disease Myths
Myth 1: Celiac disease is made up by picky eaters for attention. No! This could not be further from the truth. Yes, the gluten-free diet has become increasingly popular with celebrities and the health conscious. While people on the gluten-free diet may do so for reasons other than that they have celiac disease, those with celiac disease must eat a gluten-free diet to prevent health complications ranging from upset stomach to cancer and malnourishment. Individuals with celiac disease are not eating gluten-free to show off or get attention, they’re doing so to lead happy, healthy lives.
Myth 2: Celiac disease is curable. At present, the only cure for celiac disease is a strict gluten-free diet. While news sites publish the occasional stories about pills or shots that promise to rid you of celiac disease, there are no proven cures available to celiacs sufferers.
Myth 3: Celiac disease is an allergy to wheat. This statement is not just wrong, it’s doubly wrong. Celiac disease is not an allergy, it is an intestinal autoimmune disease. Wheat is not the only issue either. Individuals with celiac disease must also avoid barley, rye, spelt and triticale.
Myth 4: People with celiac disease just can’t eat bread. Gluten isn’t just found in bread. It’s also found in alcohol, candies, french fries, salad dressings, packaged meats… lots of foods that aren’t breads. Not only that, any food that has been processed with the same equipment – cutting boards, knives, frying oil, pots, pans, etc. – contains enough gluten to negatively affect an individual with celiac disease.
Myth 5: If you stop eating gluten and feel better, you know you have celiac disease. I wish! When I stopped eating gluten, it took me over a year to feel better. The only way to really know you have celiac disease is to get tested.
Myth 6: A little gluten won’t hurt you. It only takes a tiiiiiny crumb of gluten to trigger the autoimmune reaction in the small intestine of someone with celiac disease. Even if they don’t feel sick immediately, damage is still done to the small intestine, preventing the individual from absorbing the nutrients they need to be healthy.
Myth 7: Celiac disease is something you grow out of. Once an individual is diagnosed with celiac disease, they have the disease for life.
Myth 8: Celiacs can only marry other celiacs. While having celiac disease can make dating and marriage more complicated, as long as the partner of an individual with celiac disease is careful and considerate – to the point of brushing their teeth after wheat-filled pizza before going in for a kiss – there shouldn’t be any gluten-related problems in the relationship.
Myth 9: Being “glutened” just makes you feel bloated, sluggish or nauseated. While these can be the external symptoms of having been “glutened” (ingesting gluten), there’s more severe damage being done in your lower intestine.
Myth 10: Having celiac disease makes your life miserable. Anyone who has happily adjusted to living gluten-free will get a chuckle out of this one. This is wrong, wrong, wrong! While living gluten-free can be challenging at times, it is considerably less difficult than being sick and tired all the time. While gluten-eaters may not understand how you can live without cupcakes, cookies and pizza (a myth in itself!), there is plenty of delicious gluten-free food available. There’s no need to sacrifice flavor for your health.
What other popular myths about celiac disease have you uncovered? How did you find accurate information? Let us know on our Facebook Page!