Celiac Disease in the News: When the Wrong Information Hits the Airwaves | BeyondCeliac.org
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Celiac Disease in the News: When the Wrong Information Hits the Airwaves

Beyond Celiac tackles misinformation broadcasted on Fox News Red Eye.

At Beyond Celiac, we get excited to see celiac disease making the news. But what happens when it’s the wrong information being broadcasted?

The conversation turned to celiac disease on the June 7, 2016 edition of Fox Red Eye. So much of the information shared in the segment is inaccurate. That’s why we decided to use this as an opportunity to bust some myths and share the facts.

Below is the video segment in question. We breakdown the inaccurate information and provide the science-based facts below the video.

Inaccurate Statement #1

“I’m allergic to gluten.”


Since we’re Beyond Celiac, we’ll just focus on the conditions we’re experts on: celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity (‘gluten sensitivity’).

Neither of these conditions causes an allergic reaction to gluten – that is not to say that these conditions are not real or that they are not serious.

Both celiac disease and gluten sensitivity can produce symptoms that are painful, uncomfortable and life-interrupting. However, “allergy” is not the appropriate term to describe these conditions.

Here are the correct definitions:

Autoimmune disease: “Your body's immune system protects you from disease and infection. But if you have an autoimmune disease, your immune system attacks healthy cells in your body by mistake.”

Allergies: “Allergies occur when your immune system reacts to a foreign substance — such as pollen, bee venom or pet dander — that doesn't cause a reaction in most people.

Your immune system produces substances known as antibodies. Some antibodies protect you from unwanted invaders that could make you sick or cause infection.

When you have allergies, your immune system makes antibodies that identify a particular allergen as harmful, even though it isn't. When you come into contact with the allergen, your immune system's reaction can inflame your skin, sinuses, airways or digestive system.”

Sensitivity: Food sensitivities are not life threatening and the symptoms tend to come on slower than an allergic reaction. Symptoms may only appear after a lot of a certain type of food is eaten. For a great comparison of food allergies vs. a food sensitivity, head to WebMD here.

Inaccurate Statement #2

People with celiac disease can go into anaphylactic shock.


 People with celiac disease definitely have damage done to their bodies when they eat gluten. However, the immune response produced is not an anaphylactic reaction. Anaphylaxis is defined as “a rare, life-threatening emergency in which the body's response to the allergen is sudden and affects the whole body.” Its symptoms include swelling that makes it difficult to breathe and swallow, and dizziness.

People with celiac disease experience an autoimmune response rather than anaphylactic shock. This autoimmune response happens when the body sees gluten as a “foreign invader” and launches an attack in an attempt to protect the body. This case of mistaken identity causes damage to the small intestine and other systems in the body. It is serious and severe, however, it is not immediately life threatening like anaphylaxis is. If people with celiac disease are continuously exposed to gluten, they can develop serious, long-term consequences as a result (osteoporosis, other autoimmune diseases and even some cancers).

Inaccurate Statement #3

“No, no, faddish people complain about gluten allergies. That’s not the same thing as celiac disease, where the small intestine actually can’t produce gluten.”


Let’s break this one down into chunks.

  1. “It’s not the same thing as celiac disease.”
    This one is actually fact, but it has nothing to do with people who eat gluten-free for trendy reasons. Celiac disease and gluten sensitivity are not the same thing, even though the symptoms can be nearly identical. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease and eating gluten causes damage to the small intestine.

    There’s no intestinal damage connected with gluten sensitivity. Researchers are starting to believe that gluten alone is not responsible for the symptoms produced in gluten sensitivity. FODMAPs may be to blame. These are poorly digested carbohydrates that can provoke stomach symptoms. It’s important to know that gluten-containing grains are high in FODMAPs. You can learn more about FODMAPs here.
  2. “…where the small intestine actually can’t produce gluten.”
    This one is easy to explain. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. Therefore, gluten is not something the body makes.

Inaccurate Statement #4

“Celiac disease will kill you. One hundred percent,” and “… if you eat it [gluten], the small intestine can develop tumors that will kill you.”


It is true that celiac disease can lead to certain types of cancer if it is left untreated, undiagnosed or mistreated. That said, the above statement sounds as though celiac disease is guaranteed to lead to cancer or result in immediate death. Rest assured, this is not true.  Learn more about celiac disease and cancer here.

What piece of inaccurate information about celiac disease do you encounter most often? Tell us about it on Facebook!


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