Misconceptions in Celiac Disease

Misunderstanding Food Allergies and Celiac Disease

Nearly every day I hear someone say something that sounds absurd if you know the facts about food allergies and celiac disease. Here are the three misconceptions that I run across most frequently.

Misconception #1: Food Allergies are “Unhealthy Foods.”

Last week as I walked through the grocery store, one of the samplers offered me a chip. Of course, I couldn’t take it because of the risk of cross-contact/contamination, but I stopped to read the ingredients on the bag nonetheless. After reading the label, I quickly responded,

Thank you, but I’m actually allergic to rosemary.

To which he replied,

Oh, I’ve never heard that rosemary was unhealthy in the past. That’s interesting.

What?! Food allergies have absolutely nothing to do with the nutritional value of a food. In fact, a food allergy is simply when your body mistakenly identifies the food product as an “enemy.” You then produce large amounts of IgE antibody to fight it by releasing histamine, causing the allergic reaction that we see.

For my own personal health, it is a HORRENDOUS idea to eat any of my food allergens, but for most people, it’s not a problem at all. In fact, unnecessarily eliminating foods from your diet can cause you to eat a diet more prone to nutrient deficiencies, which is why it’s important to meet an allergist to diagnose your food allergies.

Fun fact: I was my allergist’s first rosemary allergy, so you don’t need to worry about being allergic to rosemary. In fact 90% of food allergies come from the Big 8: peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, egg, milk, fish, and shellfish. All ingredients that I color-code on my recipe tab

Today, myths about food allergies run rampant. But, you can learn more about the facts behind food allergies through reputable sources, such as FARE: Food Allergy Research and Education.

Misconception #2: Milk Allergy vs. Lactose Intolerance. 

A while back, I was discussing different non-dairy milk products, such as almond milk, when a classmate chimed in,

I’m allergic to milk too, and I love Lactaid.

I paused, and thought about how to address the multiple problems in this sentence. Hopefully, you noticed them too.

Food Allergy Misconceptions
Courtesy of VeganBaking.Net

Someone with a milk allergy can’t have Lactaid. Lactaid simply removes the lactose (a sugar) from milk, and is intended for those with lactose-intolerance. Lactose intolerance is very different from a food allergy. It’s caused by a deficiency of lactase (the enzyme that breaks down lactose) or lactose malabsorption. It can be diagnosed via a hydrogen breath test or a stool acidity test.

You can learn more about lactose intolerance (and possible clinical trials) through NDDIC.

P.S: My current favorite non-dairy milk product is hemp milk.

Misconception #3: Celiac disease is a food allergy. 

This is one of my biggest pet peeves. Last week we were having a conversation about how I was always smiling. (Clearly, this group didn’t meet me during high school). When one of my friends replied,

If you want to see Kaila angry, just tell her that you have a gluten allergy. Or even that a gluten allergy exists.

I automatically entered my open and closed fist explanation about how with celiac disease when gluten passes through your small intestine, the villi in your small intestine flatten. Since villi are responsible for absorption of nutrients, this can lead to a wide array of problems.

Misconceptions in Celiac Disease
Courtesy of TipDisease.com

Currently, the only treatment for celiac is a gluten-free diet, but it’s not a food allergy. In fact, celiac disease is an autoimmune disease.  To learn more about celiac disease, you could read some of the celiac stories on my blog, or visit the Celiac Disease Foundation’s website.

That’s all from here today. But don’t worry, we’ll have a new recipe coming out in the next post! As always, happy cooking! 

14 thoughts on “Misunderstanding Food Allergies and Celiac Disease

  1. LOVE this post, I identify with all three of your misconception frustrations, as I’m sure anyone with food allergies/intolerances will. I’m extremely lactose intolerant so I try to stay away from dairy completely, and my favorite “misconception” is when people think I can’t eat eggs (found in the dairy section so they MUST be dairy products)…that one will never cease to amaze me. And I definitely feel you on the whole healthy food thing, I get so frustrated when people comment on how healthy my gluten-free cakes must be…it’s a cake people, there’s nothing healthy about cake.

    All of that to say, thanks for another great post! 🙂

    1. Thanks for sharing your experiences too! Everyone seems to think gluten free is healthy nowadays, and it can definitely be frustrating as a celiac.

      I’m frequently told that I’m lucky to be forced to eat healthy foods. I try to explain that a GF cupcake, most likely has more calories than a regular cupcake, but I’m not sure how often that point gets across. At the same time, people never seem to mention how difficult it is to ensure I get all my nutrients with my dietary restrictions.

      It’s great to have the support of the online community as well though! Thanks for your comment!! 🙂

  2. Kaila, great post, I could give 239482034 more misconceptions I hear from people when they hear I have Celiac Disease, or they say I’M GOING GF TO BE HEALTHIER, I want to punch them, hard in the face, and I am not that type of person, but nothing makes my blood boil more than those who “eliminate gluten” on their own and say “I FEEL GREAT NOW” -_- or “it’s so much healthier” and I want to say back
    “oh, it’s healthier I have to watch EVERY single morsel I put into my mouth?”
    “it’s healthier I have to BRING my own food most places?”
    “it’s healthier I have a limited number of foods I can eat and feel good about afterwards?”
    the list goes on!

    ANYWAY – I also get the “you can’t have eggs” when I say I don’t do lactose as well, and I’m like, no…. 😛

    1. Yep, people definitely don’t understand celiac disease in general. But, my friends after I explain it, tend to be pretty good about understanding it now. The “_____ went gluten free and felt better, do you feel the same way?” drives me crazy though BECAUSE I have an autoimmune disease and it’s my only treatment option. But, yes, I do feel better.

      I like your response a lot. My second biggest pet peeve (after calling gluten an allergy) is going gluten free without getting tested for celiac disease. (Unless there’s a health insurance issue or the like).

      All that being said though, celiac disease and food allergies are my life. They certainly aren’t for everyone. I completely understand people making all of these misconceptions. I just hope they understand them after an explanation. 🙂

  3. Great post. I am doing an elimination diet right now (elimination of gluten is just one part of it). I was tested and found to be moderately intolerant to (or of) gluten. I do not have celiac disease, and I don’t have any digestive complaints. My aim is to see what affect removing gluten and other things have on my joint pain. I’m still in the process of learning, so I do like to hear what’s going on with other people!

    1. Thanks, Susan! I’m sure you’ve been tested for celiac disease (although I must admit I forget). One time my friend told me she thought she had NCGS (non-celiac gluten sensitivity), but she hadn’t been tested for celiac disease. You see, you can only have NCGS if you don’t have celiac disease first. One fact you might not know is that quite a few people with celiac disease are actually asymptomatic, which is one of the many reasons diagnosis can be difficult.

      I’ve definitely heard mixed medical opinions about intolerance testing, but I also know that paying attention to what you’re eating and how it makes you feel will certainly help in the long run. Hopefully, you find a diet that works well for you soon! Looking forward to following your cooking and adventures. 🙂

      1. Yes, I’m sure there is mixed opinion on the intolerance testing. So, the next way to find out is to eliminate the frequent offenders (and foods on your “intolerant” list) to see how you feel. Then, of course, reintroducing the foods one by one. That’s all I’m doing.

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