Seven Common Myths About Celiac Disease and Gluten-free Eating
Jefferson Adams is a freelance writer living in San Francisco. His poems, essays and photographs have appeared in Antioch Review, Blue Mesa Review, CALIBAN, Hayden's Ferry Review, Huffington Post, the Mississippi Review, and Slate among others.
He is a member of both the National Writers Union, the International Federation of Journalists, and covers San Francisco Health News for Examiner.com.View all articles by Jefferson Adams
Celiac.com 05/27/2014 - Here are seven common myths people have about celiac disease and gluten-free eating.
Myth #1: Rice contains gluten, and people with celiac disease and gluten-intolerance shouldn’t eat it.
People with celiac disease and gluten-intolerance have adverse immune reactions to gluten proteins in wheat, rye and barley.
Rice does contain gluten, just not the kind that causes adverse reactions in people with celiac disease and gluten-intolerance. Plain rice is fine for people with celiac disease.
Myth #2: A little gluten is okay for people with celiac disease and gluten-intolerance to eat.
Status: MOSTLY FALSE.
Gluten levels above 20 parts per million can cause adverse immune reactions and chronic damage in people with celiac disease.
Current medical research defines gluten-levels below 20 parts per million as safe for people with celiac disease, and the FDA and other official organizations use that standard in labeling, those levels are so close to zero as to be “gluten-free.”
The tiniest crumbs of bread far exceed 20ppm, so eating “a little” gluten is only possible by eating “gluten-free” food. In fact, the only properly recognized treatment for celiac disease is a gluten-free diet.
Myth #3: Food made with gluten-free ingredients is safe for people with celiac disease.
Just because food is made with gluten-free ingredients, it is not necessarily safe for people with celiac disease. Case in point, Domino’s Pizza recently introduced gluten-free pizza crusts. However, these pizzas are prepared in the same areas and ovens as Domino’s regular pizzas, and are likely contaminated with gluten from wheat flour. These pizzas are not safe for people with celiac disease. There are many similar cases in the restaurant world. Contamination is a serious issue for some celiacs, so buyers be aware and be wary.
Myth #4: Celiac disease is a food allergy.
Celiac disease is not a food allergy or an intolerance, it is an autoimmune disease. People with celiac disease suffer damage to the lining of the small intestine when they eat wheat, rye or barley. They also face higher risks for many other auto-immune conditions.
Myth #5: Celiac disease only affects people of European ancestry
Celiac disease is more common in people of northern European ancestry, but it affects all ethnic groups and is found in southern Asia, the Middle East, North Africa and South America.
Myth #6: Celiac disease is a children’s condition
Celiac disease can develop at any age. In fact, celiac disease is most commonly diagnosed in people aged 40-60 years old.
Myth #7: Celiac disease can be painful, but isn't life-threatening.
It’s true that classic celiac disease symptoms, like stomach pain, bone pain, fatigue, headaches, skin rash, and digestive issues, won’t kill patients outright. However, undiagnosed or untreated, celiac disease can trigger other autoimmune disorders, and leave patients at much greater risk of developing certain types of deadly cancer.
As always, Celiac.com welcomes your comments (see below).