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Celiac Disease Myths

Be Sure You Know The Facts About Celiac Disease

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Updated July 20, 2008

Unfortunately, many people get incorrect information about celiac disease from sources that are outdated or unreliable, and they end up believing some common celiac disease myths. Some of these myths appear below, along with popular misperceptions about the gluten-free diet. Follow the links for more information.

Myth: You can outgrow celiac disease.
Fact: You can't "outgrow" celiac disease -- even though doctors once thought you could. If you're an adult who "had celiac disease as a child," you still have it now, even if the obvious symptoms have gone away.

Myth: People with celiac disease are allergic to wheat.
Fact: Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder, not an allergy. Celiac disease is often confused for an allergic illness because (like an allergy) it requires a foreign substance to trigger it.

Myth: People with celiac disease are always thin.
Fact: Although it was once thought that patients with celiac disease were always very thin, now doctors are realizing that patients with celiac disease are not necessarily underweight. Even overweight people can have celiac disease.

Myth: Gluten can be absorbed through the skin.
Fact: Gluten molecules are too large to be absorbed through the skin. If you're having a reaction to a personal care product (for example, a moisturizer or a sunscreen lotion) that contains gluten, you may be allergic to one or more of the ingredients.

Myth: Celiacs need to use gluten-free cosmetics.
Fact: Celiac disease is triggered by eating gluten, so skin-care products and cosmetics that contain gluten aren't a problem unless you swallow them. Toothpaste, lipsticks, lip balms, and any product that will be used on small children should be gluten-free.

Myth: You'll feel better as soon as you stop eating gluten.
Fact: The amount of time it takes to feel better after going gluten-free is different for every person. Some people feel the results right away, but others need weeks or months to feel results.

Myth: If you have celiac disease, all you need to worry about is avoiding gluten.
Fact: Even when they're completely gluten-free, people with celiac disease need to be concerned about their cholesterol levels, their vitamin status, and their weight. In addition, people with celiac disease need to be aware that a variety of symptoms and medical conditions can be related to celiac disease.

Sources:

University of Maryland Center for Celiac Research

Lab Tests Online

Children’s Hospital Boston

Green PHR, Cellier C. Medical Progress: Celiac Disease. The New England Journal of Medicine 2007;357:1731-1743.

Dickey W, Kearney N. Overweight in celiac disease: prevalence, clinical characteristics, and effect of a gluten-free diet. American Journal of Gastroenterology 2006;101:2356-9.

Green PHR, Stavropoulos SN, Panagi SG; et al. Characteristics of adult celiac disease in the USA: results of a national survey. American Journal of Gastroenterology 2001;96:126-131.

Grzegorz Telega, MD; Tess Rivera Bennet, MD; Steven Werlin, MD Emerging new clinical patterns in the presentation of celiac disease. Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine 2008;162:164-168.

National Institutes of Health Consensus Development Conference on Celiac Disease

American Celiac Disease Alliance

The University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center

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