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