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  • Jefferson Adams
    Jefferson Adams

    Seven Common Myths About Celiac Disease and Gluten-free Eating

    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

    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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    One more myth - the article reference "gluten intolerance"; however, this is not a scientifically supported condition. Many people are foolishly self-diagnosing themselves as "gluten intolerant" or "allergic to wheat" with no evidence, and perhaps to the detriment of their own health.

    Non-celiac gluten sensitivity is a currently, albeit recently, recognized medical condition. Research has shown a whole class of people who have adverse reactions to gluten, but no gut damage, etc.

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

    I don't know that I would go on the anecdotal advise of even a "specialist" when it is contrary to the scientific data of the field in which he specializes.

    Minute amounts of gluten make one with celiac very, very sick.

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

    Your specialist needs to go back to school. Badly. Please share this moron's name so we can all avoid him.

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    Jeff -- I strongly disagree with your statement of "people with celiac disease do not react to rice gluten". I have NCGS and do react to rice gluten as does a friend of mine that has celiac. Her doctor told her she was still getting gluten in her system, i.e. rice, rice cereals, etc. I believe it all has to do with the prolaines/glaumines (?) that make up rice. Wild rice is okay because it's not a grain it is a grass. People may feel better on a gluten free diet but still cause gut damage when eating rice and other grains.

    Rice, wild rice and wheat are all grasses. All true grains are. Some contain glutens to which celiacs are reactive, some do not. Some celiacs are sensitive to other things in other grains for other reasons. Some non celiacs are sensitive to things in grains for other reasons.

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    I wish people would pay attention to the difference between celiac and NCGS. Only celiac is an autoimmune disease. That does NOT mean those with non- celiac gluten sensitivity do not have reactions...it does mean they do not have autoimmune reactions. I agree that there is scientific studies supporting baseline unsafe gluten for us with celiac but as with everything in life everyone has different responses. This article is talking about celiac.

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  • About Me

    Jefferson Adams is Celiac.com's senior writer and Digital Content Director. He 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 science, scientific methodology, biology, anatomy, medicine, logic, and advanced research. He previously served as SF Health News Examiner for Examiner.com, and devised 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 "Cereal Killers" by Scott Adams and Ron Hoggan, Ed.D.

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