There are some major misconceptions out there about celiac disease. First, let’s take a look at the different reasons people eat a gluten-free diet.
The gluten-free “fad” diet misconception
Because of the fact that celiac disease is highly under-diagnosed, and awareness of the disease, although still very lacking, has been growing exponentially in recent years, many people mistakenly think of it as one of the latest diet trends. The term “diet” actually refers to a way of eating, not a way to lose weight. Although removing gluten from a diet can be beneficial to many people, it is by no means a weight loss program. As a matter of fact, many people with celiac disease may gain weight as they begin healing, due to the fact that their bodies have been malnourished and are now absorbing nutrients that they have been lacking. So, when people mistake this way of life for the latest trend in weight loss, cheating seems like no big deal.
Non-celiac gluten sensitivity
There are many people who have been diagnosed with an allergy to gluten or wheat, or who know on their own that they feel better without gluten in their diets. Their overall health, or that of their child, improves with a gluten-free lifestyle, and therefore they stick to it as a general rule of thumb. They may adhere strictly and diligently, and some may be somewhat lax on the rules. This varies from case to case. Some may be able to sneak a little gluten in without major repercussions, but others may not find the risk worth taking. The range of reasons vary as widely as the enforcement of the diet, from stomach issues to improvements in the behavior of autistic children. However, this condition is not be taken lightly!
For those with celiac disease, cheating is simply not an option. Many people do not understand how “just a little gluten” on a rare occasion could do much harm. Simply put, each time even a very small amount of gluten is consumed, an autoimmune reaction is triggered and the person’s body does damage to itself. The intestinal walls become damaged, and recovering and returning back to normal may take some time. As an example, a person with celiac disease cannot use the same tub of butter as a gluten eating person who butters their toast. The small amount of gluten that a person with celiac disease or even non-celiac gluten sensitivity can ingest from cross contamination can cause them to become sick for days or longer. If the diet is not strictly adhered to, or cross contamination continues to be a problem, serious medical consequences may lay ahead.
Please note, I am in no way stating that non-celiac gluten sensitivity is any less serious than celiac disease. The sensitivity levels may vary, and many times, be just as detrimental as celiac. Awareness of both conditions is the key to a friendlier gluten-free environment. There are several wonderful organizations dedicated to research and awareness, and I urge you to look at donating or volunteering some of your time to help.
My question for you is:
What do you find is the hardest thing for friends or family members to understand about your gluten-free lifestyle?