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Gluten Allergy Myth Debunked

Gluten Allergy Myth

The gluten allergy myth was debunked during an annual meeting at the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology. Dr. David Stukus blames the internet for widespread misinformation about allergies. According to Stukus, an allergy to gluten simply does not exist.

Dr. Stukus explained that gluten is being blamed for “all that ails humanity.” There are three conditions which can make patients sensitive to gluten: celiac disease, wheat allergies, and non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Although some people are allergic to wheat, they often wrongly assume they are allergic to gluten.

A recent article by Today Health revealed that the gluten allergy myth has grown in popularity as patients seek information online. Stukus said he has been approached by numerous patients who are convinced they are allergic to gluten. They often gather their information on the internet.

The fad has gained momentum, with many products now labeled “gluten-free.” Since more consumers are self-diagnosing, they are demanding products that are free of gluten.

Gluten is a protein found in barley, rye, and wheat. It is the ingredient that gives bread products a pleasant texture. Gluten has been blamed for numerous disorders, including autism and schizophrenia. However, a majority of the rumors are false.

As reported by Forbes, patients with celiac disease absolutely must avoid gluten. In patients with the disease, gluten can trigger a dangerous immune reaction, which damages the lining of the small intestine.

Fortunately, only one in 133 people actually have celiac disease. Patients are usually diagnosed through blood tests and intestinal biopsy.

People who self-diagnose often believe they have developed a gluten allergy or sensitivity. However, gluten allergies do not exist and gluten sensitivity is difficult to prove.

The symptoms are often vague, and could be caused by numerous other ailments. People who remove gluten from their diet report that they feel better and often lose weight. However, both can be attributed to avoiding carbohydrates and sugars found in many breads, pastas, and cakes.

Although the gluten allergy myth is responsible for a lot of misinformation, it has been great for food manufacturers. Within the last year, the fad was responsible for more than $4 billion in profits.

[Image via Wikimedia]

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61 Responses to “Gluten Allergy Myth Debunked”

  1. Samantha McMillan

    This article is ridiculous. It was never a myth. It's an issue of semantics. Most people are using the words allergy and intolerance interchangeably, rather than keeping the issues separate. Gluten allergies don't exist, but gluten intolerances–or sensitivities–do, and in a substantial portion of the population. Lactose intolerance exists as well, though it isn't an allergy, and no one's disputing it. Gluten sensitivity causes abdominal pain and bloating, diarrhea or constipation, as well as exhaustion, irritability and general discomfort. And then of course there's the wheat allergy. People can be allergic to 20 different parts of wheat, and while they aren't actually allergic to the gluten in it, it's a moot point since it's impossible to completely eradicate the gluten from wheat, or the wheat from gluten. Much like decaffeinating something, there's always a tiny little bit left behind. The big difference there is that sufferers of a wheat allergy would be able to eat barley and rye, since the gluten doesn't bother them. They should probably stay away from oats, however, since most of them have been in close contact with wheat during processing. And then of course there's celiac disease, an immune reaction to gluten that causes abdominal pain, bloating, rashes, hair loss, cancers, diabetes, autism, infertility and miscarriage, exhaustion, tooth enamel pitting and erosion, intestinal damage and digestive issues, various vitamin deficiencies and a host of other problems. No, it's not an allergy, but left undiagnosed and untreated, it can be fatal and certainly painful. Up to one percent of the human population are estimated to have celiac disease, many of them undiagnosed because the symptoms are so varied. In some cultures, like the Irish, up to 15-20% of the population may have or may develop celiac disease in their lifetime. So there's no such thing as a gluten allergy. Many of us have known this for a long time. There's definitely such a thing as gluten sensitivity, wheat allergy and celiac disease. Testing for celiac is uncertain, and medical testing for a gluten sensitivity is impossible. But when a person who has been eating products filled with gluten her entire life suddenly stops and all the medical problems that have been sending her to the doctor over and over again for years with no answers suddenly disappear, I think it's pretty clear that gluten is an issue for some people. There's no need to prove it, only to feel better. Gluten free isn't for everyone, but–done correctly–it also isn't dangerous, and for a lot of people, it eliminates a lot of pain and otherwise unresolvable health issues. Uninformed and unclear articles like this only serve to enable people WITHOUT gluten sensitivities to believe they don't exist, and to insist to the ones who have them that they're imagining things.

  2. Tre Inphamous

    Aren't we picking apart things here? Does it really matter if its an allergy or an intolerance? The point is that some ppl eat it and get sick. Simple as that. And I can see what it does to my wife. So call it what u want but it DOES negatively affect many ppl.

  3. Dynise Basore-Ranfagni

    I can tell you from nearly 30 years as a server, that people constantly think they have gluten allergies and dairy allergies. Two of my friends have celiac and the dietary changes they made after diagnosis completely changed their lives. But, I am told nearly daily that someone is allergic to gluten…primary difference between an allergy and intolerance, I can be dead in 30 minutes from my allergy, even with celiac if some snuck into the meal, it will not kill someone.

  4. Samantha McMillan

    Dynise Basore-Ranfagni I know the difference between allergies and intolerance, and between celiac and sensitivity. My point is that the article seems to imply that the entire concept of a person having a problem with digesting gluten is a myth. It's not. Celiac disease is not an allergy–I know. It won't kill you instantly, though it can and DOES kill people. As far as food service goes, I have celiac. I've gone to restaurants before and told the server that I have an allergy, not because I don't know any better, but because most people have no concept of what celiac is, or what gluten sensitivity means. If you tell them you have a sensitivity or an intolerance, they don't seem to care that much. A lot of people believe gluten intolerance doesn't even exist, though they seem okay with the idea of lactose intolerance for some reason. If you tell them you have an allergy, though, they understand that. People know about allergies, and they tend to be much more careful about preparing your food, and this is true whether you're at a restaurant or a friend's house. Since I'm the one who has to live with the three to five days of gut-wrenching pain, among other things, if my food is contaminated because someone doesn't believe in or understand the concept or disease or sensitivity, I consider it an acceptable thing to say.

  5. Samantha McMillan

    Of course you do. Most people do. Hell, I LIKE gluten. I just don't like the debilitating pain after I eat it, or the chance at developing cancer.

  6. Tara N Tower

    some vaccinating is good for you. over vaccinating is bad. don't kept the movie star fool yah.

  7. Malibu Cunningham

    This is incorrect, I know somebody who will die if they eat gluten. she has a pen for just incase. just like people have pens for peanuts.

  8. Marne Ernstsen Newton

    I have never had official testing done but I have removed GLUTEN from my diet. I feel better, I look better, Im not tired, and my daughter if wheat gets on her skin has a rash show up almost immediately. Id say thats an allergy or a negative reaction wouldnt you? By stating this that DR. has put himself in a precarious position there are too many people out there who are addicted to gluten and wheat that should not even be eating it. I also wonder if he has ties to Monsonto. I can see them funding such rot. since they are the iniital culprit to add additional Gluten to our diets the GMO world is hurting finally? It has yet to be a good thing to mess with Mother nature.

  9. Kane Stuart

    But Kathie, Samantha has to make sacrifices, and has shit to deal with, unlike anybody else. So it stands that she has earned the right to completely ignore what is being said and have the louder voice.

  10. Gen Hogan Barnum

    This doesn't have to do with Gluten, more about what is happening with our food. Ok, I purchased bananas about 10 days ago. Yes, ten days. The bananas are getting squishy and black. Ok no surprise. What is a surprise to me is that there are no fruit flies. I know that's something I should be happy about, but it is a little disturbing at the same time. Shouldn't rotting fruit have fruit flies?

  11. Ausilia Evans

    Samantha McMillan I think you made sense…I am gluten intolerant bordering on celiac and I usually just say I have an allergy. It is not a conversation I want to have in a restaurant…if you say allergy people leave it alone. If you say intolerant you get a host of questions. The last thing I want to talk about before a meal is having a massive bout of diarrhea and feeling like death for 3 days.

  12. Jessica Dean

    Gluten allergy and gluten intolerance are not the same thing. Many people do experience degrees of (painful) gluten intolerance, and as someone with celiac, I appreciate the trend of gluten awareness. This article was written so that people can get likes from their friends on Facebook who don't read the article, but simply want to support the idea in the title that "a bunch of people are complaining about this gluten thing and hey look everybody they're idiots." Of course, I don't frequent The Inquisitr for health-related news so maybe I'm the one who is misinformed.

  13. Geneva Barlow

    I can tell you first hand for the past 35 or more years I can NOT eat white flour and have many friends and family that have seen the reaction to it. happens within minutes and even landed me in the ER just about this time last year so say what you will I am still steering clear of the "wheat" gluten no matter what its in and no matter what you write. My life is more valuable than this. And not eating gluten does not keep you thin! I can still eat sugar! why dont you go find something that will really help people to write about.

  14. Sarah Shelley

    Speaking of this… Luke has requested your famous pumpkin roll recipe. He's missed it for so long and reminisces every Halloween for it LOL! Apparently no one can make it like you do.

  15. Geneva Barlow

    thanks Sarah wish I could but in TN house we still remodeling and so glad I have this as my excuse. Maybe get back to the "susie homemaker" part of my life soon….hahaha

  16. Samantha McMillan

    Kathie Wilson, I wasn't snapping. I was merely offering a reason why I, at least, might say allergy when I know it isn't. It's simpler, and it's something people understand. Unless I'm prepared to get into a long discussion of what an auto-immune disease is, it's just easier. And like Ausilia said (kick ass name, btw), who really wants to talk about the symptoms of your illness right before you're trying to eat something (that you hope won't make you sick).

  17. Linda Lervold

    Our granddaughter just tested allergic to wheat, it is soooo prevalent, much more so than anyone knows, my daughter is having the whole family tested. The baby we are sure is allergic, we know he is allergic to milk and he is too young to be tested for the other things yet so they are holding off. If they had let our foods alone, I do not believe all this would be happening, my opinion, we are having lots of fun trying to plan thanksgiving, guten, vegan, milk free, hahahahahahha

  18. Michelle Hickman

    I was at a restaurant the other night and was explaining that I have problems digesting bell peppers. I also have a gluten sensitivity. Speaking to the manager about the bell peppers I didn't want in my meal, he told me that 'next time' I should tell the server I'm 'allergic' that way they will be more careful in preparing my meal. It's the word, universal to 'it will cause harm to the customer and we will be blamed'. Sometimes it's too long of a 'tale' to explain so just saying I'm allergic works best. If asked, then an explanation could go into greater detail and true 'tales'. It's not a fad, it's an illness that is only corrected, but not cured, by removing the gluten from the diet. In my case, no bells either.

  19. Adam Stevenson

    While I understand the need to apply science to whatever trend develops, etc. – giving your article the definitive title you did, when the only source is a guy named "Dr. David Stukus" – and nobody else – that's pretty absurd. The guy is an allergist who works at a children's hospital in Ohio. He's not exactly a scientist who's "debunked" this "myth".

  20. William Carr

    Dynise Basore-Ranfagni And yet, I’m allergic to cat dander, but it doesn’t kill me. Gluten made my life miserable and I became quite ill from malabsorption of Vitamin B… and we’re not supposed to call Gluten Intolerance an allergy ?

  21. Ausilia Evans

    William Allergies are different…they cause different responses in the body. Gluten Intolerance can cause long term damage to the body as well as significant GI distress. allergies don't cause GI stress…they cause difficulty breathing, hives, etc…

  22. William Carr

    Indeed… I was directed to this site by a pro-GM rant using this as “proof” that people are irrational about food.

    Uhm, the guy is misleading the audience.

    To split hairs and say that Gluten Sensitivity isn’t an allergy because it causes diarrhea, vomiting, weakness, bloating and vitamin deficiency, but not elevated white cell count… that’s bordering on the absurd.

  23. William Carr

    Gen Hogan Barnum No… you only see fruit flies when they’re already around… and it’s Winter in the northern hemisphere.

    Unless you live in Southern California, fruit flies are going to be a rarity for a while.

  24. William Carr

    Gen Hogan Barnum No… you only see fruit flies when they’re already around… and it’s Winter in the northern hemisphere.

    Unless you live in Southern California, fruit flies are going to be a rarity for a while.

  25. Alex Hughes-Walton

    I hear you, Michelle. We seldom go out these days for that very reason. Having to explain why one needs to avoid certain foods becomes tedious for all concerned. At the same time, I understand how difficult it can be to have to recreate a standard item on the menu in a short time. It's a shame all those witless celebrities who have to get on the GF bandwagon make it harder for the rest of us to do what we must for our health. People such as this doctor who speak out of turn and demonize those of us who have found relief from various symptoms by avoiding gluten also complicate our lives. I was having so much trouble with inflammation that I finally went on a strict elimination program that removes gluten, dairy, soy, all sweeteners, all oils but olive, coconut and grapeseed, etc. and also includes a list of starchier foods to eat only in proportion to plenty of non-starchy veggies and sensible protein. Within 10 days of starting this program I lost 8 pounds and my cankles disappeared. I lost several inches from my swollen legs. Since then, I've lost nearly 20 pounds and can only avoid joint pain, redness and swelling if a avoid all those foods. I also have to be careful to have tomatoes separately from the other nightshade veggies. I've nearly cut out potatoes altogether. I feel so much better. It's a tough program to sustain, but the results are worth the sacrifice.

  26. Sandy Carlson

    Not all, but most people I know that claim to have a gluten allergy also have claimed ADHD and fibromyalgia. When confronted with this article on FB, all 5 have claimed suddenly to have Celiac Disease. As I know a child who was diagnosed with Celiac BEFORE it became popular, I call BS. I believe what people have is "I don't feel great because I eat a lot of bread, sugar, mac n cheese and drink too much beer"

  27. Jessica Rakes

    I felt like shit for about 3 years and couldn't understand why. They took a scope, put it down my throat and biopsied my insides… Bingo Bango… CELIAC! When your body doesn't absorb nutrients it effects pretty much everything, you are incredibly lethargic. I felt like I had pressure on my chest all the time, I was gaining weight with no explanation. It's a real thing…

  28. Melissa Terzi

    Of course the only way to know is to remove it from your diet. Are you better? Yes? Then OBVIOUSLY it was an issue. Whatever you call it – that's a fact. Remove it and get better.

  29. Shannon McLaney Maynard

    How do you explain away the case when someone shows up allergic to wheat, barley, hops, and rye? This is the case with my husband. Wouldn't someone concluded that he is allergic to gluten?

  30. Anonymous

    you probably have a WHEAT allergy. I guess people don't read. but then I guess if millions of immunologists say it doesn't exist but you say it does..

  31. Anonymous

    if you do a little research you will find that this paper was presented by the good doctor, and ACCEPTED by the American college. If you don't know what that means, look it up.

  32. Anonymous

    of course people also don't seem to know the FDA does not regulate gluten free products, so any label can say gluten free and still contain gluten, consumer reports found 84% of products labeled gluten free had significant gluten in them. Also 23% of products labeled gluten free, never had gluten at all.

  33. Anonymous

    Bravo, well said. Im sorry for your real and probably awful pain. Its worse to see every tom dick and harry think they have it too, someone feels bloated after eating a stack of pancakes and suddenly they are gluten sensitive. Or they get constipated because they don't get enough fiber and they think its bread related. I worked in an ER and people would come in with food poisoning, usually seafood related and rather than think they had a bad piece of fish they'd blame the breading and gluten, because its a hot topic on the internet and everyone wants to feel included.

  34. Anonymous

    so if you remove bread from your diet , and feel better then gluten was the problem? not wheat or grains, or complex grain carbs? or bleach from the flour?

  35. Anonymous

    put simply this is a case of people when proven that something they believe in, is proven to be totally false, they believe it twice as hard. Why believe the doctors, what do they know about medicine, I read the internet I know th facts. I spent 29.95 on a book and a website and they told me the truth!
    let me give you people some real advice. get a grip on yourself,. people thin kthey have fibromyalgia because they feel sore all over, YOU DONT, true fibromyalgia sufferers if you've ever the horror of witnessing it, are in so much pain the thrash on their beds screaming in absolute tortured agony from pain. People think they have celiac, because they got bloated or had a tummy ache after eating pancakes, BULL, celiac disease sufferers, if they ate pancakes would basically poop out or vomit out, or both, the lining of their intestines, in a bloody mess that can kill them, not give them gas. wake up, you had a belly ache, get over yourself.

  36. Anonymous

    celiac sufferers can die from wheat maam, just so you know.
    and to Samantha, no its not a moot point because some drugs are based on wheat but have no gluten, so a gluten sensitivity doesn't matter in a life saving situation. Se I have a sensitivity to tetanus, but if I truly need the shot we can use histamine blockers first and take the shot to minimize discomfort. Allergic to tetanus, means the shot will damage me in some way . that's a big issue people cannot separate discomfort and allergic reactions.

  37. Anonymous

    its people like you who believe in aliens government conspiracies, magic, crystals, ayurvedic medicine and the like. you would ignore anyone who says they know more than you think you know, even though your sources of knowledge are dubious and lack any credentials. We had measles mups and rubella virtually wiped out, now because some idiot said vaccines are bad, we are seeing them come bad and make children suffer, way to go! thanks for making the world a more horrible place for children to be. it must be great to know it all. and how hard it must be to live among the unenlightened like you.

  38. Anonymous

    Alicia Martinez , its 1 in 133 people who believe they have celiac disease, actually do. not 1 in every 133 Americans.

  39. Anonymous

    Marne-that's a Wheat allergy which the doctor says exists, why don't you people read? and your s stuck on blaming Monsanto, instead of blaming your genes. Im sure these a guy at Monsanto , in a plant with a big bucket of wheat gluten just pouring it in to stuff, and there is NO ONE ON EARTH ADDICTED TO GLUTEN, are you seriously that much of a whack job as to even think that? Get mental help. you obviously suffer from borderline paranoid delusions. And I am very serious.

  40. Anonymous

    William Carr the guy, is a noted doctor, and the audience is the entire college of immunology. and yes ALLERGY is defined medically as a rise in white blood cell count, as in it causes the body to try to fight off the identified intruder. learn medicine before you attack someone who does.

  41. Anonymous

    an allergy is not an illness , youre not sick because you have an allergy, celiac is a DISEASE it can kill, this is the problem everyone wants pity so if they have an allergy suddenly its a disease.

  42. Melissa Terzi

    stevehud_99 What's the difference what you call it. Take out gluten (not bread – all gluten), eat different grains, different foods that are gluten free – and feel better. That's all I care about! Or anyone else who is suffering – I'm sure that's all they care about. Why the fuss over words and all the frustration? We are all here to exchange info and hopefully help people? Right?

  43. Robert Prunella

    Melissa Terzi Are you typical of the quality of students graduating SDSU, who don't CARE about the actual definitions of the words you use? What did you receive your degree in? I'm going to go out on a limb and guess it was neither science nor English. What makes people feel better can be merely a suggestion that takes root in their sub conscience, while a disease is something that can actually kill them. Likewise, a mere suggestion can cause discomfort, and especially so in a person with mild hypochondria. Next thing you know they are off to the doctor, wasting medical resources and driving up costs across the system. After the doctors find nothing, they become convinced of a medical conspiracy, and they start buying into the worthless health food fads that suck millions of dollars out of the pockets of these gullible people every year. But worse still, they may buy into other conspiracy theories that may end up harming their children, who cannot choose for themselves as far as diet, what supplements they are taking, what vaccines they elect to receive, etc. Try thinking out your statements to their logical conclusions before you attack stevehud_99 for merely demanding clarity, as is the author of the article, because GOOD information does makes lives better, the rest only serves itself.

  44. Melissa Terzi

    Robert Prunella I'm not suggesting words aren't important to the medical and healing world of course. Or that people shouldn't diagnose and find true conditions. I'm suggesting that people should try things on their own too, and decide what works for their bodies instead of trying to define it first. Our fabulous pediatric gastro doctor (and allergist) couldn't help my son. All the degrees, words, tests, and drugs and my son got sicker. I took gluten out of his diet and it healed him. For whatever reason it was, he got better. I am grateful I figured it out because my son isn't doubled over in horrible pain. And I'm grateful I had enough information to try pulling out different foods. I'm not arguing the point of the article – just saying that the best thing for people to do is to try to remove it and see if they are better. If that works, great – go back and try to figure out why if you want to. Otherwise just don't eat foods that trigger it. I tried to ask the doctors what they thought about him getting better after I took it out. They had nothing for me. I'm open to learning more about all kinds of reasons. I'm very open minded. It wasn't my point. My point is that I think people need to keep open to considering it as a possible problem in their health if they have symptoms and just remove it. If you want to be angry and insulting and put me down along with anyone else here on this post….. go for it! I hope one person reads this and tries to remove gluten and it helps them. That would make me happy for posting public like this – which I never do because of this type of personal attack. You and Steve have a great day. I come in peace. :-)

  45. Robert Prunella

    Melissa Terzi people try cooking meth on their own, that doesn't mean it's a good idea. You're assuming that the average person is as intelligent as the next, and is prepossessed by the same reasoning skills. What I've found, and comment threads on virtually any subject support this, is that people are generally dumb as stumps, and given the opportunity WILL do their worst in any given situation. Only shame or the threat of prison keeps most of us out of trouble, and sometimes those fail too.

  46. Michelle Hickman

    stevehud_99 – I agree, celiac is a disease. If you have celiac. I don't. I have a gluten sensitivity. People who do not know the condition do not understand this. They think I can still have a small amount. This is not the case. I can't have the gluten. I makes me ill, sick, acts like an allergic reaction in my insides as well as causes problems on the surface. It's not the kind to break you out in hives or close the throat, however, it is a slow killer too by robbing one of nutrition that is much needed. As a sufferer of allergies, I've long learned the difference. I've spent the last several years trying to undo SOME of the damage the gluten has done to me and made progress. Yeah, me! This article, however, refers to the FAD of the gluten diet that many have taken to for the overall health benefits. To some, it's needed. To others, it's a choice. Hmmm, sounds like many things in life. :)

  47. Anonymous

    stevehud_99, I kid you not, I saw a container of baby spinach leaves a couple weeks ago that was labeled "gluten free". haha

  48. BrookeLynn De Witt

    Dynise Basore-Ranfagni – I think you are confusing anaphylaxis with all allergies in general. I have anaphylaxis with some items that can kill me and then allergies which cause just hives and itching. Saying you have a gluten allergy is much much easier than sitting there listing to the server that you have: wheat, rye, and buckwheat allergies and a gluten intolerance in general and while to you it may not be a big deal, to me it's the difference between physically not being able to get out of the bed from sickness, suffering from malnutrition, and having other health issues. While it's upsetting how many people assume they have certain issues and try to make it trendy, it's equally as upsetting how many people are ill-informed and don't understand how serious such allergies can be and how after you get medically- diagnosed, it can turn your life upside down.