5 Common Myths About Celiac Disease and Gluten Sensitivity
Health Hacks Celiac disease impacts the lives of roughly 3 million Americans, but only about 15 percent of them realize it.
Celiac disease (CD) can present so many different symptoms that doctors need to be highly suspicious and send the most reliable blood-screening test, called TTG-IgA, more often.
Once positive, patients need to see a gastroenterologist who will finalize the diagnosis with a biopsy of the small intestine. After diagnosis, a strict gluten-free diet is the only treatment, and is generally very effective.
Is the gluten-free diet good for everyone? Not really. Relying exclusively on gluten-free foods may result in lack of crucial vitamins, minerals and fiber. Let’s dispel some other myths:
Myth: Celiac disease is a food allergy.
It is actually a unique autoimmune condition, which requires both a genetic (HLA DQ2, DQ8) and an environmental factor (gluten) to develop the disease.
"A strict, life-long adherence to the gluten-free diet remains the only treatment for celiac disease. Poor adherence increases one’s risk for osteoporosis and cancer."
Myth: Having the genes means you will develop celiac disease.
Though 30 percent of the population has the genes for CD, only 1 percent of people will develop it. The reason for this is still unclear.
Myth: Start a gluten-free diet as soon as your blood test is positive.
Initiation of the gluten-free diet will lead to gut healing, TTG normalization and resolution of symptoms in the majority of patients. Therefore, it is extremely important not to start the diet prior to obtaining a small intestine biopsy as it may lead to normal findings and an inability to make the diagnosis.
Myth: Small amounts of gluten for celiac patients are safe.
Let’s be clear, small amounts of gluten for celiac patients are not ok. A strict, life-long adherence to the gluten-free diet remains the only treatment for CD. Even if asymptomatic, poor adherence increases one’s risk for osteoporosis and cancer.
Myth: There are alternatives to the gluten free diet.
Not yet, but stay tuned. Though currently the gluten-free diet is the only treatment for CD, researchers are actively working to create medications that can limit the absorption of gluten and vaccinations to help restore tolerance to gluten. This is very exciting, as it may allow patients with CD to safely consume gluten for the first time in their lives.