6 Celiac Disease Myths You Shouldn't Believe

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Don't believe everything you read or hear about celiac disease. While awareness of the condition has grown quite a lot in recent years—both among doctors and among the general public—there's still plenty of misinformation out there.

Some of these myths appear below, along with some detail on the actual facts.

Myth 1: You Can Outgrow Celiac Disease

Fact: You can't "outgrow" celiac disease—even though doctors once thought you could. If you're an adult who "had celiac disease as a child," you still have it now, even if the obvious symptoms have gone away. If your child is diagnosed with celiac disease, she'll need to follow the gluten-free diet for life. That's why it's important to get an accurate diagnosis in the first place—celiac disease is something you'll live with forever.

Myth 2: Celiac Disease Is the Same as Wheat Allergy

Fact: Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease, not an allergy. Yes, celiac is triggered by wheat (along with barley and rye), and it's possible to be allergic to wheat, too. But the reaction in your body from celiac is completely different than an allergy. That being said, lots of people refer to celiac as an allergy, in part to make it easier for others (especially servers in restaurants) to understand—most everyone gets what it means to be allergic to something, while not everyone understands what it means to have an autoimmune disease.

Myth 3: People With Celiac Disease Are Always Thin

Fact: Although doctors once thought that people with celiac disease were always very thin, now they're realizing that lots of people with celiac disease are actually overweight. One study showed that nearly 40% of celiacs were overweight when they were diagnosed. So it's possible to be underweight, overweight, or even at the perfect weight and still have celiac disease.

Myth 4: It's Okay to Have a Cheat Day Once in a While

Fact: No, it's not okay. In fact, it's a very bad idea to cheat on the gluten-free diet, even if you only do it occasionally. You risk some major health complications if you cheat — for one, you raise your risk of some forms of cancer. There's also a pretty good chance that you'll feel awful afterward. So don't listen to anyone — including a few well-intentioned but ill-informed doctors — who tell you a little cheating on the diet is fine. It's not.

Myth 5: You'll Feel Better as Soon as You Stop Gluten

Fact: The amount of time it takes to feel better after going gluten-free is different for everyone. Some people much feel better right away, but others need weeks or months to start feeling more like themselves again. You may find that some symptoms—like your digestive symptoms—are much better within a few days of starting the diet, but that other issues—like fatigue—just take longer to clear up. Don't worry, this is normal.

Myth 6: All You Need to Worry About Is Avoiding Gluten

Fact: Even once you're following the gluten-free diet, you'll still need to make sure you're getting enough of certain vitamins, including iron, folate, and calcium. You'll also risk coming up short on fiber since so many people depend on wheat for their fiber intake. So merely eating gluten-free doesn't exempt you from watching everything else about your diet—you should still strive to eat healthily.

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