There are a lot of misconceptions about being gluten-free. If you tell someone you are gluten-free, they either act like they know all about it and assume you are doing it as some short-term diet fad. Or they stare at you, the deer in the headlights look, and ask, “Can you eat fruit?”. I’ve gotten both and each time, I just want to pull my hair out. Most of the time I just keep my dietary restrictions to myself unless it becomes necessary to tell someone. Easier for them, easier for me. People just can’t grasp the fact that the reason (most) people are gluten-free is because of Celiac Disease. An autoimmune disease, not a fad diet. When you do try to explain and defend your illness and reasons for being g-free, you get asked a boat load of questions. They all have a theme though. They are all strong held myths! Myths that have been put out their by the media, lack of education, and lack of awareness.
Myth #1: Celiac Disease is the same as a gluten allergy or intolerance.
False! Celiac Disease is a severe autoimmune disease. When the protein, gluten, enters the body, the body acts as though it is a foreign invader and attacks itself causing severe damage to the small intestine and villi. An allergy is when the food cause an immune-response that is abnormal and cause specific anti-bodies to be produced leading to an anaphylaxis or other response. An intolerance is experiencing adverse symptoms to gluten, but not having the anti-bodies or intestinal damage as seen with Celiac.
Myth #2: Your body can feel better after just one day of starting your gluten-free diet.
False! You may start to physically feels better after a week or so, but it can also take a few months. It does take a full 6 months to heal the damage done to your digestive track and intestines. It depends on the person, but it will take more than just one day to get out of the gluten-fog and body beat down. (Don’t get discouraged!) Your body has been though so much distress and damage, it needs time to recover and start processing nutrients correctly again. It will take some time.
Myth #3: Wheat-free means Gluten-free.
False! This one kills me! Just because something says “wheat-free” DOES NOT mean it is also gluten-free. Wheat is just one cereal gran and part of the top 8 allergens so you will see it labeled often. Gluten is in not only all forms of wheat, but also barley, rye, and their derivatives. When I was first diagnosed I made the careless mistake of buying a cereal that said wheat-free. Little did I know it contained barley-malt. Thus, I ate it and suffered the consequences before I went back and looked more closely at those ingredients.
Myth #4: Gluten-free also means Grain-free.
False! Just because you are gluten-free does not mean you have to be grain free. The are a plethora of gluten-free grains for you to enjoy! This isn’t the Paleo diet people, this is the gluten-free diet 😉
Myth #5: All oats are safe to eat on a Gluten-free diet.
False! Oats are very controversial because they have their own protein called avenin. “Some celiac disease patients have avenin-reactive mucosal T-cells that can cause mucosal inflammation. Oat intolerance may be a reason for villous atrophy and inflammation in patients with celiac disease who are eating oats but otherwise are adhering to a strict gluten-free diet.” (source). But that is a very small minority of Celiacs…very small. As long as you get CERTIFIED gluten-free oats, you will be okay. Oats are commonly grown and rotated in the same fields as wheat. You need to buy oats from brands like GF Harvest (my favorite) or Bob’s Red Mill. NOT Quaker as they are contaminated.
Myth #6: You can have a “Cheat-Day” on a Gluten-free diet.
False! If you ingest gluten at any time, your body will go into its autoimmune response. Even the littlest bit, 20ppm (max!) will make you sick. This is not a diet you can cheat on. This has to be a lifestyle change for your health. Treat your body right and stop harming it. This is a severe disease that can cause detrimental consequences.
Myth #7: You can “take-the-croutons-off-the-salad”.
False! Again, this goes along with #6. You can not simply remove the croutons or eat the icing off a gluten-filled cupcake. This is severe cross-contamination that will make you sick. You are ingesting gluten, it does not matter if it is one crouton or a whole piece of bread.
Myth #8: You can take a special enzyme pill and then go eat gluten.
False! No, just no. This is not lactose-intolerance where you can take some Lactaid and enjoy some yogurt. Pills like GlutenEase and Gluten Cutter ARE NOT safe for Celiacs. You can not eat gluten ever! The only treatment is a strict life-long gluten-free diet. Celiac Disease is just that, a disease. These “enzymes” are just propaganda by drug companies wanted you money. They do not work, do not even try. *I can’t speak for those with gluten sensitivities using them, but really, just don’t eat gluten if you have a medial problem with it. Period.
Myth #9: Gluten-free only pertains to what you eat.
False! Remember how I mention gluten can be a sneaky little thing? Well it is. Gluten can be in medications, beauty products like lipstick, eye-liner, eye-shadow, etc. Anything with an ingredients list must be checked thoroughly. Not just food!
Myth #10: If a food is labeled as Gluten-Free, that means it is healthy.
False! A cookie is a cookie, a cake is a cake. Just because something has “Gluten-Free” written on it, does not mean it all of a sudden assumes a new health status. It is just like products labeled “Organic”. Just because those chips are organic and those are not, does not mean the organic ones are any healthier. Gluten-Free is not a health claim, is it a safety signal for those of us with Celiac.
Myth #11: The Gluten-free diet is for everyone!
False! So false. The only people who need to be gluten-free are those with Celiac and other gluten-related medical disorders. A normal person who eats wheat is going to be no healthier than a celiac eating gluten-free. Gluten is not a poison to 99% of the population. However our agriculture practices have gotten so bad that genetically modified forms of wheat and other foods has caused a rise in food allergies and food related disorders. Thus, the diet for everyone is to simply eat clean, whole foods from the Earth. Local and organic when possible and very very minimally processed. Do that, eat for health, and you own food-allergies and you are golden.
Now for the biggest one of all! Myth #12: I should go Gluten-Free to lose weight.
False! False! False! Please, just stop the madness! Going Gluten-free is not a weight-loss diet! Going Gluten-free actually helps those Celiacs who have lost a significant amount of weight from malapsorption, to gain weight. Gluten-free processed products can actually be more calorie and carb dense than their gluten-filled counterparts. However, when people go Gluten-free for medical reasons, they may just become more health conscious to begin with. They are going to start cooking more of their own meals, using a larger variety real whole foods, and getting a more balanced diet. That is why it may be a misconception that going gluten-free can be used as a weight loss diet. But no, it is not and never will be. Just stop eating processed, sugar-filled, chemical/artificial laden food and then you can loss weight. It is not about eating “Gluten-free”, it is about eating real food.
Please tell me you won’t believe these myths ever again. Erase them from your memory and start letting people know the facts! And please, whatever you do, never ever ask a Celiac if they can eat fruit. Please, just don’t.
So tell me:
+ Are there any myths out there that I missed? I tried to think of all the big ones!
+ If you have Celiac or a food allergy/intolerance, what is your biggest pet peeve? The extreme ignorance and lack of understanding…even when you explain things.
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