Just like anything else, there is as much misinformation about Celiac disease and gluten floating around out there as there is real truth. Here are the five myths that I hear most commonly and the truth behind them.
Myth One: If you’re gluten intolerant, you can only eat foods labelled gluten-free.
Many foods (such as rice, corn, produce, and meat) are naturally gluten-free in their unprocessed form and are fine for you to eat. You may also find processed foods that contain no gluten but aren’t labelled gluten-free. This is because they haven’t gone through the necessary testing procedures and regulation process. Eating these foods is a matter of choice.
Myth Two: All grain-based alcohol contains gluten.
Only beer and other alcohols fermented with gluten-containing grains are off limits. Distilled alcohols like rye and whiskey are fine on a gluten-free diet, unless you’ve been told to stay away from alcohol for a different reason. (For example, many doctors recommend abstaining from alcohol for the first three months of a gluten-free diet to help your digestive tract heal.) For more information, visit http://www.celiac.ca/Articles/Fall1990-1.html#distilled.
Myth Three: MSG contains gluten.
This one is false, too. Monosodium glutamate (also known as MSG) does not contain gluten. (It is, of course, a chemical, and many people choose to eliminate it from their diet for that reason.) For more information, visit http://www.celiac.ca/Articles/Fall1990-1.html#msg.
Myth Four: A negative test for Celiac disease means you’re free and clear.
The blood test currently being used in most parts of the world is only about 50% accurate. As well, you can develop the disease at any point in life.
Myth Five: Celiac disease is an allergy to gluten.
Celiac disease is actually an autoimmune disorder. When gluten is ingested, the body’s immune system attacks the villi in the small intestine. Celiac disease has a very wide variety of symptoms, making it difficult to identify and diagnose. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has an excellent overview here.