7 Myths and Facts about Celiac Disease

Walking through the aisles of your neighborhood grocery store, you’re sure to see any number of gluten-free products, ranging from breakfast cereal to shampoo. If your child has been diagnosed with celiac disease, you may know that they need to avoid gluten – a protein found in grains like wheat, barley and rye – but you may still have many questions about exactly what that means and how it can be done safely and reliably.

Here are some common misconceptions about celiac disease and the facts behind this often misunderstood diagnosis:

Myth 1: Celiac disease is the same as a wheat allergy.
Fact: Kids with a wheat allergy need only to steer clear of wheat products. In children with celiac disease, damage is done to the lining of the small intestine when any food containing gluten – including wheat, barley and rye – are ingested.

Myth 2: Kids can outgrow celiac disease.
Fact: Celiac disease is a lifelong condition. While there is no known cure, a happy and normal life is possible with proper management.

Myth 3: My child’s doctor can prescribe medication to treat celiac disease.
Fact: There are no medicines that treat celiac disease. The only treatment is to follow a gluten free diet.

Myth 4: Gluten free means zero gluten.
Fact: It is nearly impossible to completely remove all traces of gluten from your diet. Research shows that most people with celiac disease can tolerate up to 20 ppm (parts per million) of gluten in their diet .

Myth 5: Kids with celiac disease have to use gluten free soap, shampoo and lotion.
Fact: Gluten cannot be absorbed through the skin, but parents need to be aware of hygiene products that are easily ingestible, especially when bathing younger children .

Myth 6: If a product’s packaging says “Manufactured in a facility that also processes wheat” it is not safe for people with celiac disease.
Fact: It is possible for celiac-safe foods to be produced alongside foods that contain gluten, as long as the facility follows appropriate sourcing, cleaning, storage, production and testing procedures. When in doubt, visit the company’s website or call their hotline to learn more about these practices.

Myth 7: A gluten-free diet can help treat autism.
Fact: The Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network (ATN) investigated these claims and found insufficient evidence of clear benefit when switching children with autism to a gluten-free diet.

It is important to not self-diagnose celiac disease in your child. If you think your child might have celiac disease, ask your pediatrician for a referral to Nationwide Children’s Hospital’s Celiac Disease Center. Our experts can test and provide an accurate diagnosis and put your child on the proper path to treatment.

Ivor Hill, MD
Ivor Hill, MD, MB, ChB, is director of the Celiac Disease Center, one of the signature programs within the Division of Pediatric Gastroenterology at Nationwide Children’s. He is also professor of Clinical Pediatrics at the Ohio State University College of Medicine. Dr. Hill was born and raised in South Africa and immigrated with his family to the USA in 1990. He and his wife, Barbara, have four sons, Kevin, Garick, Jared and Sorin, and one daughter, Alexa. He is a self-proclaimed crazy golf nut and also loves running and photography.

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