By Jessie Popelka, dietetic intern, WVU Extension Service Families & Health
Common Myths about Celiac Disease
Celiac Disease is a condition that results in damage to the intestinal villi when foods containing gluten are consumed. The villi in the small intestine are small fingerlike protrusions that provide a large surface area for food particles to be absorbed into the blood stream. When these are damaged, food particles cannot be absorbed properly, and pass through the digestive system which results in gastro-intestinal issues.
Common symptoms of Celiac Disease include chronic diarrhea or constipation, vomiting, abdominal bloating and pain and fatigue. Celiac can present through many other symptoms, however some individuals with the disease do not experience any symptoms.
Truth versus Myth
Myth: People with Celiac Disease are allergic to wheat.
Truth: Celiac Disease is not the same as an allergy to wheat. Celiac Disease is when the consumption of gluten sets off an autoimmune reaction that results in the destruction of the villi in the small intestine. Celiac Disease and wheat allergies are commonly confused with each other.
Myth: People with Celiac Disease should use gluten free skin products.
Truth: Gluten is only harmful to Celiac patients when it is consumed. Individuals with the disease do not need to be concerned with purchasing beauty products such as sunscreens, shampoos or cosmetics that are gluten free. Other products that are designed to go in or near your mouth, such as toothpaste, mouthwash, or lip balms, may be a problem if they are ingested. There is a form of Celiac Disease that results in a skin rash called Dermatitis Herpetiformis, however this is still a result of ingesting gluten, not the use of gluten containing products.
Myth: Celiac Disease is a children’s disease that can be cured or outgrown.
Truth: Once diagnosed with Celiac Disease a person has it for life. Individuals of all ages can be diagnosed with the condition. There is no cure for Celiac, but symptoms can be controlled with a gluten free diet.
Myth: Gluten free diets have health benefits for those without Celiac Disease.
Truth: Although less than 1 percent of the American population is thought to have Celiac Disease, 15-25 percent of consumers report looking for gluten free products. A subset of individuals who do not have Celiac Disease are thought to be gluten sensitive and do feel better on a gluten free diet. Although gluten free products are not harmful to those without the condition, they are often much more expensive than their gluten containing counterparts, and the extra cost may not be worth it for those not suffering from the disease.