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    Seven Common Myths About Celiac Disease and Gluten-free Eating

    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.

    Status: FALSE.

    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.

    Photo: ElfQrin--Wikimedia CommonsMyth #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.

    Status: FALSE
    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.

    Status: FALSE
    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

    Status: FALSE
    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

    Status: FALSE
    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.

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    Guest Dick L.

    Posted

    "The tiniest crumbs of bread far exceed 20ppm..."

     

    Well, of course. 20ppm is a rate, not an amount. If a particular bread tests at 2000ppm, then the whole loaf is 2000ppm and the tiniest crumb is also 2000ppm. But what's important for us as celiacs is the total amount of gluten consumed, not how strong in gluten some part of what we consume may be. If I eat a Chinese dish that has wheat-based soy sauce in it, it makes a difference whether I eat lots of the sauce or not. The sauce my be 150ppm gluten, and if I only have a teaspoon of it, it still 150ppm, but I get less gluten than if I ate a couple of tablespoons of the sauce.

     

    The whole "20ppm" standard encourages people to think the wrong way about gluten consumption. Something expressed in milligrams per serving or micrograms per serving would be much more useful.

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    Guest Team

    Posted

    Complete rubbish. My specialist advised crumb contamination is not a problem. Apart from being a specialist he's also celiac, as is his daughter.

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    Guest Nicholas Cole

    Posted

    I disagree with Myth #1 regarding rice is okay for celiacs. Please see Cyrex Labs Array #4 for IgA and IgG testing of Gluten Cross Reactive Foods. Rice, including other foods are gluten cross reactive and can cause a immune reaction similar to gluten.

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    Guest Jefferson Adams

    Posted

    I disagree with Myth #1 regarding rice is okay for celiacs. Please see Cyrex Labs Array #4 for IgA and IgG testing of Gluten Cross Reactive Foods. Rice, including other foods are gluten cross reactive and can cause a immune reaction similar to gluten.

    This is incorrect. People with celiac disease do not react to rice gluten the same way they do to secalin from rye, hordein from barley or gluten from wheat. Plain rice of all types is safe for people with celiac disease to consume. Ask any celiac expert.

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    Guest Jefferson Adams

    Posted

    Complete rubbish. My specialist advised crumb contamination is not a problem. Apart from being a specialist he's also celiac, as is his daughter.

    Please provide the name of your specialist. I'd love to hear his faulty rationale for such a misinformed view. Let's imagine you're making gluten-free toast that weighs 1 ounce (about 28 g) per slice. In order to eat under 20ppm gluten, your contaminated crumb would need to weigh something like .00056 grams. Even if we adjust for the actual weight of the gluten relative to the crumb itself, that would still make the crumb, literally, microscopic. More likely, a crumb would weigh something like a few hundredths of a gram. This would be more than enough to trigger a reaction in most people with celiac disease. Your specialist is off by many orders of magnitude.

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    Guest Jefferson Adams

    Posted

    "The tiniest crumbs of bread far exceed 20ppm..."

     

    Well, of course. 20ppm is a rate, not an amount. If a particular bread tests at 2000ppm, then the whole loaf is 2000ppm and the tiniest crumb is also 2000ppm. But what's important for us as celiacs is the total amount of gluten consumed, not how strong in gluten some part of what we consume may be. If I eat a Chinese dish that has wheat-based soy sauce in it, it makes a difference whether I eat lots of the sauce or not. The sauce my be 150ppm gluten, and if I only have a teaspoon of it, it still 150ppm, but I get less gluten than if I ate a couple of tablespoons of the sauce.

     

    The whole "20ppm" standard encourages people to think the wrong way about gluten consumption. Something expressed in milligrams per serving or micrograms per serving would be much more useful.

    20ppm is not a rate. 20ppm gluten is a ratio, a ratio that is based on an amount, and a ratio that is uniform and scalable. It can be represented by a fraction 20/1000000, which equals .00002. Let's imagine eating a dinner, albeit a big dinner, that weighs a total of 1 kilogram (1000 g). 1000g times .00002 equals .02 gram, or two-one-hundreths of a gram. A microscopic amount. Regarding your soy sauce example, in both cases, you have still exceeded the total amount needed to cause an adverse gluten reaction. Said amount would be based on a ratio of your total dietary intake to the amount of gluten included in that total. If the gluten exceeds more than .00002 of that total, you are risking adverse reactions. I hope this helps.

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    Guest Susie

    Posted

    What qualifies someone as being a "celiac expert" or a "celiac specialist"? Here's a fact for your list: Celiac disease affects each patient differently. Some are more sensitive than others. I cannot tolerate any ppm, I cannot tolerate food items that were on the unsafe list when I was diagnosed but have been moved to the safe list. 20ppm is less than 1/8th of a teaspoon. Just because someone has celiac disease doesn't mean they know it all. Just because someones career is studying celiac disease doesn't make them an expert. We are all individuals with different tolerances. As for rice, it depends on where the rice is stored before packaging. The same for raw beans! I wish those who make statements would use the term "for most with celiac" and I wish packaging would be required to state the real ppm amount instead of being able to say "gluten free"!

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    Guest Maris

    Posted

    One of the confusions with rice is between plain unseasoned, unfortified rice vs. packaged rice that has been fortified or contains seasonings. The latter might have gluten that has been added or its various "fortifications", flavorings, or seasonings might have been cross-contaminated by gluten somewhere down the line.

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    Guest jill

    Posted

    I am reading Dr. Alessio Fasano's new book called Gluten Freedom. On pp 126-127 he states "consuming up to 10 mg (approximately one-eighth teaspoon of flour) of gluten per day is safe for most people with celiac disease." Really?? That's a lot of bread crumbs or quite a bit of contamination in Domino's. Can this be true?? Dr. Fasano is founder of the Center for Celiac Research at Massachusetts General Hospital and visiting professor at Harvard Medical School. Am I misinterpreting what he is saying?

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    Guest Kerri

    Posted

    Thank you for this article! My husband and three children have celiac disease. My understanding is that even very small amounts of gluten (microscopic) can begin an immune response where the immune system begins attacking not only the gluten, but also their body (usually the gut, but two daughters develop tremors with gluten exposure, which means it's attacking their nervous system, also). The gluten acts like an "on" switch that makes the body attack itself. Is that correct? I find this helps others get a better perspective when explaining how harmful even crumbs are.

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  • About Me

    Jefferson Adams earned his B.A. and M.F.A. at Arizona State University, and has authored more than 2,000 articles on celiac disease. His coursework includes studies in biology, anatomy, medicine, and science. He previously served as Health News Examiner for Examiner.com, and provided health and medical content for Sharecare.com.

    Jefferson has spoken about celiac disease to the media, including an appearance on the KQED radio show Forum, and is the editor of the book Dangerous Grains by James Braly, MD and Ron Hoggan, MA.

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