Myths about coeliac disease
‘Coeliac disease is rare’...myth
Research shows that coeliac disease affects 1 in 100 people in the UK, making it much more common than previously thought. Under diagnosis is a big problem and research suggests around 500,000 people have not yet been diagnosed.
‘Coeliac disease is a food allergy’...myth
Coeliac disease is not a food allergy or an intolerance, it is an autoimmune disease. In coeliac disease, eating gluten causes the lining of the small intestine to become damaged. Other parts of the body may be affected.
‘You have to have gut symptoms such as diarrhoea to have coeliac disease’...myth
Coeliac disease is known as a 'multi-system' disorder - symptoms can affect any area of the body. Symptoms differ between individuals in terms of type and severity.
‘Only children get coeliac disease’...myth
Coeliac disease can develop and be diagnosed at any age. It may develop after weaning onto cereals that contain gluten, in old age or any time in between. Coeliac disease is most frequently diagnosed in people aged 40-60 years old. Delayed diagnosis is common and our research shows the average time it takes to be diagnosed is 13 years.
'You have to be underweight to have undiagnosed coeliac disease’...myth
Recent research suggests 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 lifelong condition. The gluten-free diet is the only 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 retested for coeliac disease (antibody blood test, gut biopsy) it would be expected that the tests are negative. This means they are responding well to the gluten-free diet. There are no antibodies in the blood because there is no gluten for the immune system to react against. Taking gluten out of the diet allows the gut to heal.
‘A breadcrumb won’t hurt someone with coeliac disease’...myth
Even very small amounts of gluten can be damaging to people with coeliac disease. Therefore, taking sensible steps to avoid cross contamination with gluten is 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 foods which contain gluten
- use a clean grill, separate toaster or toaster bags to make gluten-free toast
- use separate breadboards and wash surfaces thoroughly
- use separate condiments like jam, butter, mustard and mayonnaise.
‘Coeliac disease only affects people of European origin’...myth
Coeliac disease affects all ethnic groups and is common in Europe and North America, as well as in southern Asia, the Middle East, North Africa and South America.