In the recent decade, we have made a lot of progress in the information available on celiac disease and gluten-free diets and lifestyles, which is great! Unfortunately, there still are some lingering myths that we’d like to address here. So let’s dive into myth #1:
“A gluten-free diet is healthier” or “Gluten-Containing Foods Are Bad for You”
There are definitely polarized views on this topic! So let’s break it down,
A gluten-free dietis not necessarily true EXCEPT for people who have celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, or other gluten-related disorders.
For most people without any of the conditions mentioned above, whether gluten is present or not doesn’t mean that is a high or low-quality diet. What’s important are the overall food choices made within a diet, whether it is gluten-free or not.
If someone is eating too much bread, pasta, and cookies (especially those made from refined flours) and then switches to a gluten-free diet which eliminates these foods while increasing fruits, vegetables, and other healthful gluten-free foods, the resulting diet would likely be much healthier.
That same person could also eat all gluten-free foods (GF bread, GF pasta, and GF cookies, etc.) and without balancing that out with fruits, vegetables and proteins that person could equally be consuming a poor diet despite it being gluten-free.
“A gluten-free diet is good for weight loss.”
Just because you remove gluten from your diet doesn’t always mean it’s healthier. It’s easy to slip into thinking that just because a food is gluten-free that must mean that it’s super-healthy...when that isn’t always the case. In fact, a lot of processed/manufactured foods that are gluten-free can actually have a higher fat and sugar content than their gluten counterparts which could definitely stall out any weight-loss endeavors.
The best way to actually create weight loss is eating lots of fruit and vegetables along with protein creating a calorie deficit...whether you are eating gluten-free or not.
“Surely a few crumbs of bread can’t hurt.”
In a person that has Celiac Disease, even tiny amounts of gluten can damage the intestinal cells, even if there are no obvious immediate symptoms. People that have gluten sensitivities may or may not have a reaction, it really just depends on the individual
“You can diagnose gluten sensitivity through a blood, saliva or stool test.”
There are varying views on this. There are tests on the market but many of them have not been verified and so are not widely accepted in the medical community. As of right now, biomarkers (another word for the indicator of disease) have not been pinpointed. This means that gluten sensitivity can only be diagnosed by a process of elimination in a person’s diet. This is best done under the guidance of a doctor or a registered dietician that has experience with celiac patients.
“You should only use gluten-free shampoo and cosmetics.”
This is also somewhat controversial but ultimately up to you individually. Some of the scientific community that have researched this don’t believe that the presence of gluten in shampoos, soaps and makeup is a threat to those with celiac disease, with one exception. Products that can be ingested like a lipstick or perhaps hand lotion could cause an issue if they contain gluten.
It has been found that unless you have a deep and open wound, gluten cannot be absorbed through the skin making topical items acceptable for use.
Please do be aware that you NEED to wash your hands after handling products that may contain gluten to reduce the risk of ingestion. If you want to remain risk-free from that, then opt in for gluten-free products.
“If a restaurant has a gluten-free menu, they know how to serve me.”
We wish this was the case but all too often it is not. Restaurants are making great strides with the inclusion of gluten-free options on the menu but have not looked deeply enough into the difference between a gluten-free meal and a gluten-free meal that is completely contaminant-free.
The best thing to do if you are headed out to a restaurant is to call ahead and ask how they prepare food for their gluten-free customers. When the food arrives check with the server one last time that the food is gluten-free. It doesn’t hurt to be overly cautious. It saves you from becoming sick.