Top Celiac Myths that need Debunking

by | G+ Amy Leger

Does coffee have gluten? Aren’t all celiacs skinny? Won’t gluten absorb through the skin?  All basic myths people think are true in the celiac world.  Now time to debunk these and much more thanks to the experts who lead a session today at the International Celiac Disease Symposium in Chicago.

Do coffee or corn contain gluten?

No they don’t. Both are safe for people with celiac disease to consume, per Dr. Stefano Guandalini.  *As a side note I would add, if you are adding multiple flavors and additives to your fancy coffees, you will need to check on those.  And creamed corn should be confirmed gluten free.

Gluten makes you fat….

Technically no it does not.  Claims from books like Wheat Belly are incorrect, per Dr. Stefano Guandalini.  *He did add you may want to check your lifestyle if you are concerned about your weight.

I can have genetic tests done to confirm my non-celiac gluten sensitivity

No you can’t.  There is no gene to test for NCGS, per Dr. Stefano Guandalini.  *Don’t let a company or medical practitioner convince you otherwise.

I can eat gluten and just take an over-the-counter glutenase product and I won’t get the effects of the gluten.

Wrong.  There is no evidence that the current glutenase-style products that are available on the market right now work, per Dr. Stefano Guandalini  *Lots of research is being done however to get a reliable product like this on the market.

People with celiac are always thin

This is a serious myth that I know even medical practitioners believe.  According to Melinda Dennis a Registered Dietitian at Beth Israel, 40% of people diagnosed with celiac are overweight at their time of diagnosis.  4-5% are underweight.

I will lose weight on the gluten-free diet

Again, wrong.  Overall, according to Melinda Dennis, RD, most patients tend to gain weight when their gut heals and they can absorb nutrients again.    Better absorption of food + same caloric intake = weight gain.

My tTG test is in the normal range after going gluten free. My gut must be healed!

Unfortunately that is not the case.  Melinda Dennis, RD says research shows 30-60% of celiac patients on a gluten-free diet still have damage to their small intestine.

All of my cosmetics, lotions, hair products must be gluten free because the skin absorbs gluten

No.  Dr. John Zone, who is a dermatologist says the skin has stratum corneum which is like a “Saran Wrap” or a protective barrier to keep gluten from permeating into the body.  The same holds true for hair follicles which have a protective barrier.  A break in the skin will allow absorption.   Lipstick needs to be gluten free.

Celiac caused my eczema because it improved on a gluten-free diet

Actually the gluten-free diet may have helped the eczema, but celiac doesn’t cause eczema or psoriasis according to dermatologist John Zone.  If you are in an inflamed state (after eating gluten perhaps), your other skin condition (like eczema or psoriasis) could flare up.  Dermatitis Herpetiformis is the skin condition treated by the gluten-free diet.  You must ingest gluten in order for DH to appear.  According to Dr. Zone, gluten touching the skin will not prompt a DH reaction.

I work in a bakery, but I don’t eat the gluten-containing food.  I am okay.

That may not be okay actually.  Dr. John Zone, a dermatologist, says he has seen cases where celiacs can get sick from breathing in large amounts of gluten in the air.  What you breathe (like flour in the air at a bakery) is often ingested.  While it is not all that common, it can happen.

The experts admitted they may not convince everyone of their reasoning  to debunk the myths on certain topics (particularly in the case of the gluten being absorbed by the skin), that but they made sure to make their cases to help you make the best decision you can during day-to-day life.

Thank you to to the large panel of experts who weighed in at #ICDS2013 today!  It was a lively discussion!





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21 Responses to “Top Celiac Myths that need Debunking”

  1. WOW, I thought I knew everything.
    I learned something from every single one of those myths!

    thanks a huge amount!

    I don’t like my daughter who has celiac doing cooking projects at school or camp with gluten.

  2. Great stuff; thanks, Amy!

  3. I know and acknowledge that science says that gluten cannot be absorbed through the skin, but I know, that at least in my case, if I handle something containing gluten I get a rash wherever it came in contact with my skin. This happens whether it is flour, gluten containing bread, shampoo, or play-doh. I wish I knew what it was that caused this kind of reaction without ingestion. I feel like science has not yet come up with an explanation for this.

  4. Thank you so much for posting this for us who couldn’t attend the conference.
    Valuable information.

  5. Glad the post helped Amy! Good luck with the cooking classes that is a tough one.

  6. You’re welcome Beth!

  7. I know. I have had people say that to me on different occasions as well. Good luck!

  8. Glad the post helped Theresa!

  9. Shampoos, not shallots, lol

  10. What if gluten in hair products doesn’t all rinse off? I am afraid of getting sick from something like that, so I switched a long time ago. I prefer the other shampoo/conditioner but am afraid of trace amounts remaining and somehow getting into my body (touching hair, then mouth or something like that)

  11. Corn affects many people with Celiac as the protein groups are very similar to ‘gluten’, gluten can enter through the skin (think about the amount of medications that are given topically), celiac causes DH, so going GF can cure that, many people diagnosed with ‘eczema’ actually have DH;

  12. Joy A – I am the same way. If I touch gluten the DH will reappear where the gluten touched. I am NOT ingesting gluten otherwise I would be having neurological, psychological and intestinal symptoms also.

  13. I worked at a bakery for a month and ingested the airbourne flour. My intestines closed off and I ended up at the Doctor. I could hardly drink liquids it was so bad. So Yes working at a bakery can be Horrendous to your health.. I had to quit.


  14. I’m not a particular fan of “Wheat Belly” due to the sensationalism in the ad campaign for it *but* the book does not claim that it’s the gluten component of wheat contributing to obesity. The author claims it’s certain starches in wheat that are too easily metabolized into sugars or high blood sugar. I have not memorized that book because as a celiac it’s fairly redundant but countering his sensationalism by attributing false claims is no way to go either. If Guandalini hasn’t read the book, he can’t make that claim. If he did read the book, he misinterpreted or deliberately is misstating that aspect. Just because there may be some sensationalism at play here, that doesn’t absolutely negate the claims.

  15. I see they’re at least upholding the airborn gluten problem. airborn gluten case, NEJM:

    airborn gluten, how it gets in your system:

  16. I am gluten sensitive. My scalp itched all the time until I switched to a gluten free shampoo. When I travel and use the small bottles, it comes back.

  17. My thoughts exactly JJJ. Sounds like Guandalini hasn’t read Wheat Belly.

  18. Susan, I appreciate your comments. It is very good information by Dr. Zone, but in the end, people need to make their own personal choice about gluten-free cosmetics, shampoo. As long as they are making an educated decision with all of the information, that is great!

  19. First of all, skin is not “Saran Wrap”. If fact, everything you put on your skin is absorbed to some degree. Whether it’s enough to trigger a gluten reaction probably varies, but it’s a good reason to look at ALL of the ingredients in the things you out on your body, not just wheat based ingredients. How is it those skin patches work? Oh, yeah.

    Second, my personal experience and that of everyone I know is that dropping gluten results in weight loss even if total caloric intake remains the same. This was true even in someone who had developed so much gut permeability that she was hospitalized – she was still overweight until dropping gluten. Not absorbing nutrients doesn’t mean not absorbing calories, and causes intense hunger and cravings. The calories from sugars, for example, begin being metabolized in your mouth. People with extreme gluten reactions can be literally starving nutritionally and overweight. There is also a particular kind of puffiness from the inflammatory response which almost identifies someone with gluten intolerance (particularly face, neck, chin) and is one of the first things to resolve when gluten is eliminated.

  20. One more thing – does gluten “cause” exzema or psoriasis? Probably not. But it does cause an inflammatory and autoimmune response which DOES potentiate other inflammatory and autoimmune responses in the body. So someone with the potential for any of these disorders may not experience them at all if this specific and powerful trigger is removed, and in that sense it becomes causative.

  21. I love getting all the info I can especially being newly diagnosed! I have found however that the things I put on my skin whether it be face, scalp, rest of body is that gluten is absorbed through skin, I had to switch to gf makeup, hair products, and lotions until I did this I was still not feeling good even with a gf diet. Now I don’t feel great all the time especially bc my family is not gf so I risk cross contamination everyday but I feel better since making all of my toiletries gf as well as anything I ingest.

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