Healthy Living

Celiac Disease Myths: Unmasking the Truth

Celiac Disease Myths: Unmasking the Truth

Key Takeaways

  • Celiac disease is a very serious condition. If someone tells you it is not serious, they are wrong.
  • Not everyone should get tested for celiac disease. People who show the signs and symptoms, and those who are genetically susceptible should get tested.
  • Going on a gluten-free diet does not cure the disease - it only treats it.

Many people struggle with the misconceptions propagated about celiac condition that are circulating on the web. We will look at a few common myths that are circulating to unmask the truths behind them. With an increase of celiac disease awareness, there has been an explosion of grocery stores with gluten-free foods. It is believed that in the US alone, between the years 2010 to 2015, the retail sales of this niche market have shot up by 34 percent. With such buzz around the disease, it is likely that there are some myths floating around.

Myth #1. Breastfeeding prevents infants from getting celiac disease

According to a study review conducted by researchers in 2015, it revealed that neither breastfeeding nor not breastfeeding played a part in the development of a celiac condition. Breastfeeding has numerous benefits for the mother and baby, because it’s nutritionally complete. It may delay the onset of clinical symptoms in a baby at risk of celiac disease but not the prevention. If you suspect an infant has celiac disease, testing is the only way to determine its presence. Find out if your baby is just sensitive to gluten or has the disease.

Myth #2. Using shampoo or cosmetics that contain gluten triggers a celiac reaction

Gluten-based shampoos and cosmetics are no threat to celiac patients, with the exception of lipsticks and hand lotions if accidentally swallowed. Besides, dental products like mouthwashes and kinds of toothpaste with gluten may be more lethal to someone with celiac disease because of a risk of ingestion. If you are using a skincare product with gluten and you develop a skin reaction, check with your dermatologist to identify the cause. You may have an allergy to another grain or wheat but not related to celiac disease.

Myth #3. Is delaying the introduction of a gluten-based diet in a baby preventing celiac disease?

There is little evidence to support this practice. Why? Clearly, infants risk allergies when introduced to solid foods including the gluten-based foods before the end of their 3rd month. Actually, breastfeeding at the time delays the appearance of celiac disease. There is no scientific evidence showing that early gluten introduction in infants before or after 3 months of age brands them to be celiac free. According to a team of researchers in 2015 who examined 15 cases about delaying the introduction of gluten diets in infants, 25% of these children who were given gluten food for the first time after 6 months of age had higher probabilities of developing celiac disease.

Myth #4. A gluten-free diet is the cure for celiac disease

You will likely improve within weeks of starting a gluten-free diet. In most cases, the symptoms stop and healing of the intestines also occurs, preventing any further damage.  Some problems like tooth discoloration or stunted growth may not improve. After you begin treatment it may take you over a year to recover. However, this treatment is not a cure. Trials try to explore treatment options beyond the regular diet. A cure means you no longer have the condition, while treatment helps you manage the condition. Eliminating gluten from your diet prevents symptoms and long-term complications associated with the disease, but it is no way a cure for it.

Many celiac patients don't heal completely because of failure to strictly adhere to a gluten-free diet. Trials try to look for transformational therapies that make living with celiac disease less of a burden. If you re-introduce gluten to your diet after healing, the immune system reacts and the gut lining gets damaged once more. Therefore, it is critical to involve people who suffer from CD to involve in testing new drugs, new blood testing methods, or rather diagnostic tools. Also, experts may shed more light on the symptoms and related conditions.

Myth #5. Celiac is the same thing as gluten sensitivity

Both are absolutely not the same thing. Undeniably they cause gastrointestinal symptoms because of gluten present in barley, wheat, rye or other beverages. The bottom line is celiac is a genetic component affecting one for life and you cannot outgrow it. On the other hand, with gluten sensitivity, also called gluten intolerance, a person may tolerate small amounts of gluten with no symptoms. In the case of celiac disease, an individual has to be 100 percent gluten-free as even just a crumb of bread can be lethal. Immunological responses in celiac results in intestinal damage, whereas in gluten sensitivity the body mounts a stress response with no sign of intestinal damage.

Myth #6. A celiac condition isn’t serious

Long-term damage to the small intestines' lining may start to affect other organs. The disease can set you up for other complicated health issues that can be very dangerous. Once the celiac condition is left untreated or neglected, it will depend on how deep the damage has penetrated, for instance bone weaknesses and infertility in women is irreversible. Harm to your small intestines means they can’t absorb essential vitamins and minerals like iron, calcium, D, Niacin, and B12 just to mention a few. If you lack calcium in your body it leads to osteopenia and osteoporosis. The body requires iron to make the red blood cells responsible for carrying oxygen around your body. So, iron deficiency means the blood does not have an adequate supply of oxygen to the body, leaving you tired and short of breath.

Myth #7. Your life is miserable if you have celiac disease

People without celiac disease may not understand how you can live without pizza and cookies, but they have no idea of the plenty of deliciously gluten-free foods that exist. On a gluten-free diet, you are likely naturally eating healthy foods. People with celiac disease may eat more veggies, fruits, and lean meats due to their condition. A healthy diet can lead to a healthy life. And a healthy life makes for a happy life.

Myth #8. Everyone should go for a celiac disease test

For starters, there are two steps that help find out if you have a celiac condition. Unless you are at high risk of celiac disease, it is hard to figure out if the individual needs to be tested. The one and only gold standard to confirm a celiac diagnosis is by performing a biopsy on the lining of your small intestines to find some specific patterns of damage.

Then again, a genetic tendency can be present but a biopsy may turn out negative. In other words, you may not have symptoms, but you are a genetically susceptible person. In that case, genetic testing is the best way to look for class II genes, HLA DQ8 or HLA DQ2, associated with celiac disease. One of the screening methods is a blood test called tTG-IgA that checks for celiac disease antibodies. If the results are positive, then your physician recommends a biopsy to confirm the finding. The confirmation of your diagnosis is seen when an improvement occurs while you are on a gluten-free diet.

If you have food allergies, more so wheat that triggers an immune response, you may develop symptoms related to celiac disease. Skin-pricking and blood tests are sufficient.

Closing thoughts

People suffering from celiac disease may assist researchers in very many aspects like enrolling in focus groups, participating in surveys, and other information sharing platforms in order to better understand the areas related to celiac disease. Research and trials are important because they help in busting more myths associated with celiac disease. See a doctor regularly once you have been diagnosed with celiac disease to check on your progress.