Gluten-free diet seems to be just another diet fad and it is booming in the US. Americans will spend about $7 billion on gluten-free food. But, is it just a fad, or are Americans becoming more sensitive to gluten? Scientists say that in fact there are still a lot of people whose celiac disease – who cannot digest gluten – are not diagnosed and are suffering unnecessarily.
A study published recently in the Gastroenterology journal suggests that nearly 2 million U.S. adults have celiac disease. They found that the number of undiagnosed celiac disease increased dramatically in the last 50 years, and that people whose condition was not diagnosed have four times more risk of related death.
What is celiac disease?
Celiac disease is a digestive ailment that damages the small intestine and affects the absorption of nutrients from food. People with celiac disease cannot tolerate gluten, a protein found in rye, wheat and barley. The most common celiac disease symptoms are abdominal pain, bloating and intermittent diarrhea. The inability to absorb nutrients can lead to a fatigue, weight loss, anemia, rashes and other issues. The only cure is a complete gluten-free diet. Celiac disease is often inherited, but it sometimes gets triggered by pregnancy, surgery, childbirth, some viral infections, or emotional stress.
The severity of celiac disease, when the symptoms will appear and the number of symptoms depend on the length of time a person was breastfed, how old was a person when he or she started eating food with gluten, and how much food with gluten he or she eats. are three factors thought to play a role in when and how celiac disease appears.
Why the increase?
One of the potential causes for more people suffering from celiac disease today than 20 years ago may be the fact that people eat much more processed wheat products, such as pastas and baked goods than before. Also, many foods today contain more gluten, because gluten helps dough to rise and improves the texture of baked goods.
Another potential reason for the increase in prevalence of celiac disease might be in the varieties of wheat and other grains grown today, which are crossed in order to become hardier and stronger. That might inadvertently increased the amount of gluten or increased the way gluten affects people.
If you suspect that you have celiac disease, talk to your doctor. He can make sure with blood testing, genetic testing, or he can do a biopsy of the small intestine. You also might be just too sensitive to gluten, without actually having celiac disease. Another possibility is that you might have stomach problems with symptoms similar to those of celiac, and have fallen for advertising for gluten free diet as a cure all. Self-diagnosing is never a good idea, especially with diseases as serious as celiac. Only your doctor can determine if it is celiac, or something else. The treatment, and your well-being, might depend on the right diagnosis.