Debunking The Myths About Coeliac Disease
There’s no shortage of myths about coeliac disease, as anyone who suffers from it themselves finds out only too quickly. Here are six of the top coeliac misconceptions we see regularly:
1. Coeliac disease is just another food allergy
No. Coeliac disease isn’t a food allergy or intolerance; it’s an autoimmune disease. In coeliacs, eating gluten causes the body’s immune system to go into overdrive and damages the lining of the small bowel (although other parts of the body can also be affected).
2. Coeliac disease is rare
At least one in every 100 people in the UK have coeliac disease, making it more common than epilepsy, and one of the most common chronic health conditions. Underdiagnosis of coeliac disease is still a severe problem, with some estimating that as many as half-a-million sufferers have not yet received an accurate diagnosis.
3. You can’t have coeliac disease unless you have gut symptoms… like diarrhoea
Not true. Like all auto-immune diseases, coeliac affects the whole body. Different people will have different symptoms of varying severity. You can read more about the symptoms of coeliac disease at Symptoms – CoeliacUK.
4. All coeliacs are underweight when they’re diagnosed
Many coeliacs are average weight, or even overweight, when they are diagnosed. Bodyweight is not an accurate way to decide whether to test someone for coeliac disease.
5. Only children get coeliac disease and they’ll grow out of it
Couldn’t be further from the truth. Although coeliacs can manage their condition – primarily by not eating gluten – the disease is lifelong and can affect people of any age.
Many coeliacs first experience severe symptoms of their disease as children, and so are diagnosed at a young age, but the most common age for diagnosis is 40 to 60. Delayed diagnosis, and a lack of accurate knowledge among medical professionals, is widespread, with many people waiting as long as 13 years for a diagnosis.
6. Only Europeans get coeliac disease
As an autoimmune condition, coeliac can affect people of any racial or cultural background equally. However, diagnosis is more common among western/European populations because the typical diet of someone in these countries contains more gluten. In Asian countries with a mainly rice-based diet, for example, many coeliacs remain undiagnosed because they rarely eat gluten.