There is lots of conflicting and out-dated information out there about coeliac disease….here we answer the most common misconceptions.

‘Coeliac disease is rare’….MYTH
Research shows that in fact coeliac disease affects 1 in 100 people in Australia and New Zealand, making it much more common than previously thought. Under-diagnosis is a significant problem, with only 1 in 8 people being diagnosed.

‘Coeliac disease is a simple food intolerance’….MYTH
Coeliac disease is not a food intolerance or a food allergy. It’s an autoimmune disease which means the body’s immune system reacts to gluten by attacking its own tissues. In coeliac disease, eating gluten causes the lining of the gut (small bowel) to become damaged and may affect other parts of the body.

‘Only children get coeliac disease’….MYTH
Coeliac disease can develop and be diagnosed at any age. It may develop after weaning onto gluten containing cereals, in old age or any time in between. Coeliac disease is most frequently diagnosed in those aged 40-60 years old. Diagnosis is often delayed; Coeliac research shows the average time is takes for people to get diagnosed is 13 years.

‘You have to have gut symptoms such as diarrhoea to have coeliac disease’….MYTH
Coeliac disease is known as a ‘multi-system’ disorder, which means that symptoms can affect any area of the body. Symptoms differ between individuals in terms of type and severity, and not all symptoms of coeliac disease are gut related.

‘You have to be underweight to have undiagnosed coeliac disease’….MYTH
Recent work has shown that most people with coeliac disease are of normal weight or overweight at diagnosis. Body weight alone should not be used to decide whether or not you should be tested for coeliac disease.

‘You can ‘grow out’ of having coeliac disease’….MYTH
Coeliac disease is a life-long condition. The gluten-free diet is the complete treatment for coeliac disease. If gluten is introduced back into the diet at a later date, the immune system will react and the gut lining will become damaged again. If someone following a gluten-free diet is re-tested for coeliac disease (antibody blood test, gut biopsy) the tests would be expected to be negative. This does not mean they no longer have coeliac disease, it simply means they are sticking to the gluten-free diet. This is because there is no gluten for the immune system to react against, and hence no coeliac antibodies in the blood. Taking gluten out of the diet allows the damage to the gut lining, detected by the gut biopsy, to heal.

‘A breadcrumb won’t hurt someone with coeliac disease’….MYTH
Even very small amounts of gluten can be toxic to people with coeliac disease. Taking sensible steps to avoid cross contamination with gluten is therefore important.

Top tips include:

  • keep cooking utensils separate during food preparation and cooking
  • avoid frying food in the same oil that has previously been used to cook gluten containing foods
  • use a clean grill, separate toaster or toaster bags to make gluten-free toast
  • use separate breadboards and wash surfaces thoroughly

‘Coeliac disease only affects people of European origin’….MYTH
Coeliac disease affects all ethnic groups, and is common not just in Europe and North America, but also in countries of southern Asia, the Middle East, North Africa and South America.

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