10 Myths About Gluten and Coeliac Diesase

There’s much more to going gluten-free than a change of diet. We know that gluten is sneaky, and harmful to those with coeliac — even sharing utensils can be life threatening — but there’s more than a few myths going around. So in light of Coeliac Awareness Week we’re getting to the raw truth and debunking some common mistakes surrounding gluten.

Myth #1: Only grain-based foods contain gluten

Eating gluten-free doesn’t just mean you have to make the switch with breads, pastas and cereals. You can also find it in some of the most unexpected places like suncream, shampoo and makeup, as well as in some unlikely foods like lollies, pickles, soy sauce and other condiments.

Myth #2: Coeliac disease is rare
It’s actually the opposite. According to Coeliac Australia, the disease affects at least one in 100 Australians, but 75 percent currently remain undiagnosed — that’s approximately 160,00 Australians that have coeliac disease but don’t know it yet.
Myth #3: People with coeliac aren’t as sensitive to gluten as they might claim
Everyone has different levels of intolerance, but the symptoms they receive and the health concerns are serious. So much that people with coeliac can easily get really sick from even the smallest of bread crumbs, and can even have a terrible attack from sharing utensils or having food made on the same surface as gluten foods.
Myth #4: A gluten-free diet is good for anyone

Going gluten-free seems to be a bit of a trend at the moment, but if you’re not gluten intolerant then there’s no benefit on passing up on some great foods. The only reason gluten-free eaters are restricted to a gluten-free diet is because of the harm gluten can do to their digestive system and nutrition. Forgoing gluten when you don’t have coeliac disease won’t make you healthier or help you to lose weight. In fact, there really is no point.

Myth #5: Coeliac disease and gluten sensitivity are the same thing

These two terms are often passed around as being the same thing, but they’re not. Coeliac disease is an autoimmune disorder where the immune system reacts abnormally to gluten causing small bowel damage. Gluten sensitivity is not an autoimmune disease, and gluten doesn’t cause the intestines any long-term damage. However some of the symptoms like diarrhoea, cramping, bloating are the same.

Myth #6: Gluten-free foods are healthy

Most gluten-free goods are processed and definitely don’t equate to healthy. They still contain gluten-free flours, sugars and fats to help compensate for the lack in texture and taste.

Myth # 7: Coeliac isn’t life-threatening

People might think having coeliac is just a pain in the back side, but it’s actually more harmful than it might appear. Aside from doing damage to your digestive system and experiencing unpleasant side effects, if untreated it can even lead to infertility and other autoimmune disorders.

Myth #8: Going gluten-free is good for weight loss

If you think ditching the bread and cereal is going to help you lose weight, think again. While eliminating certain carb-rich foods might help those skinny jeans fit better, many gluten-free products contain more sugar, fat and other additives than their non-gluten free siblings.

Myth #9: It’s OK to have a cheat day when you’re coeliac

Unfortunately it’s not OK. If you’ve got coeliac, every time you eat foods that contain gluten the protein from these foods are damaging your intestines and preventing you from receiving essential nutrients. Even the smallest amount of gluten can be detrimental to your health. Eek!

Myth #10: It’s OK to self diagnose coeliac disease

First thing’s first — don’t even self diagnose. There’s many reasons as to why you shouldn’t self diagnose, but you need to know whether or not you have coeliac or are just insensitive to decide on the correct treatment. And if you cut out gluten before you get tested you can affect the results, only delaying proper diagnosis.

Stephanie Ayre

Unlikely foods that contain gluten

Processed Meats

Deli and processed meats like salami can often contain modified starches (containing gluten) to help bind the ingredients together. You might also find gluten hiding in your favourite Californian sushi roll. The so called “crab meat” that they use isn’t real crab and contains wheat — so sneaky!

Sauces & Condiments

Many condiments like tomato sauce, mustard, gravy and salad dressings contain wheat and starch to help thicken the product. So look on the label for “modified food starch”.

Liquorice

This definitely doesn’t look like bread, but yes, it too contains gluten found in its wheat ingredients.

Soy Sauce

You might have thought soy sauce was made from soy beans, but think again it’s got wheat! If gluten is out you can buy gluten-free soy or try tamari sauce for a good alternative.

Pickles

Did you guess these? Pickles are often made from malt vinegar, which is a by product of gluten.

Lollies

Unfortunately hard lollies also contains the gluten protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. But if you’ve got a sweet tooth don’t worry, there are gluten-free products out there.

Alcohol

Many beers are not gluten- free, so it’s best to steer clear from beer made from wheat, barley and rye. Malt and malt flavouring also contain gluten and distilled alcohols like vodka might also be made from wheat. But wine drinkers are in the clear because they’re made from grapes. Cider is also made from fermenting apples so most of these drinks should be gluten-free.

Stephanie Ayre

Removing gluten from your kid’s diet?

If, after ingesting food containing gluten, your child exhibits symptoms of a gluten intolerance, it is a good idea to see its doctor and have a panel of tests performed which will confirm or exclude a diagnosis that might spell a gluten free lifestyle from thereon out.

In that case it’s not just “a good idea” it’s a medical necessity that, while impacting your child’s quality of life in some areas, will ensure it will not suffer from the consequences of its illness.

In all other cases, “gluten free” is not a good dietary choice.

Standard Response to All Gluten Question follows:

Gluten is the product of two grass proteins, glutenin and gliadin, who – combined with water – when experiencing shear or pressure form into a mesh that lends springiness to doughs and traps air for leavening.

On its own, it’s utterly, completely, and totally, harmless. It does not lead to weight gain and does not help you lose weight because even in high gluten concentrations it doesn’t comprise more than a trace of the whole. Furthermore, gluten is enriched in the amino acids glutamine and proline, which actually renders it biochemically difficult to digest. Gliadin peptides are resistant to degradation by gastric, pancreatic, and intestinal brush-border membrane proteases, and thus remain in the intestinal lumen after gluten ingestion.

In the ~1%[1] percent of Americans who have a light to severe allergy to gluten it will cause inflammation and malabsorption.

Gluten is vilified by some who just don’t like grains or want you to eat them. Again, there’s nothing wrong with eating grains, like everything else (from bacon to soy, from beef ribs to celery stalks) it’s the amount that can make a difference and hurt you or make you obese.

But the notion that a no-gluten diet is “a good idea” as a general practice is nonsense.

[1] Per a review article about Celiac in the New England Journal of Medicine http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10….

For those interested in the genetics: Celiac disease doesn’t develop unless a person has alleles for HLA-DQ2 or HLA-DQ8 proteins. Even so, studies in siblings and identical twins suggest that the contribution of HLA genes to the genetic component of Celiac disease is <50%, meaning that these genes are necessary, but not sufficient, to cause symptoms.

Jonas M Luster