It wasn’t too long ago that only people with celiac disease were avoiding gluten. For celiacs, taking gluten out of the diet meant relief from chronic digestion problems such as diarrhea, abdominal pain, and bloating. Adopting a gluten-free diet was a challenge, but well worth the struggle if it meant eradicating these symptoms.
Over the last few years, however, there’s been a slow revolution in who’s opted to choose a gluten-free diet. It’s no longer just people with celiac disease but people seeking relief from all kinds of illnesses far removed from celiac disease. The list of health conditions that could potentially be wiped out (or, at least, have their symptoms reduced) by the elimination of gluten are numerous. Alzheimer’s, diabetes, obesity, schizophrenia, autism, irritable bowel syndrome, cancer, osteoarthritis, cataracts, and erectile dysfunction are just a few of the wide-ranging health problems that could benefit from a gluten-free diet. How did a single food—gluten—get blamed for causing all the ills of modern society?
First of all, it’s necessary to know a little bit about gluten itself. It’s formed from several different proteins and is found in wheat, rye, barley, oats, spelt, and kamut. Most of the protein in wheat—over 75%—is made up of two substances called gliadin and glutenin. Some people can develop sensitivity to these proteins. Celiac disease, of course, can be tested for. But non-celiac gluten sensitivity can’t be accurately measured at the doctor’s office.
Non-celiac gluten-sensitivity is a relatively new phenomenon. Even experts who specialize in the field of gastroenterology don’t quite know what happens with the disease or how to track its effects from individual to individual. This is something that is only being explored now.
Doctors do agree that patients seem increasingly affected by celiac-type symptoms that plague both the digestive system and nervous system. Even with a “negative” result on a celiac blood test and no evidence of an autoimmune reaction to gluten, something in gluten is clearly causing problems for a growing number of people.
In fact, some researchers are now coming to the conclusion that non-celiac gluten-sensitivity is actually far more prevalent than celiac disease. This health trend has sparked a huge boost in the gluten-free industry. The sale of gluten-free products has now reached billions of dollars in the U.S.
Gluten-free products are often offered at a premium because they contain “special” ingredients. While it can cost more for a manufacturer to operate a certified gluten-free facility, many of the flours used in gluten-free baking, such as corn and white rice, are no more “expensive” to use than wheat.
Those with non-celiac gluten sensitivity won’t see any relief for their pocket books any time soon. Buying gluten-free products will continue to be the only way to ensure that gluten isn’t lurking somewhere. This is because gluten can show up in all sorts of obscure places when it comes to foods on grocery store shelves. But of course, many people would say that the price of relieving these diseases is worth it.
Source(s) for Today’s Article:
Marshall, L., “Gluten-free not just a fad for some,” CBC news web site, May 1, 2013; www.cbc.ca, last accessed June 12, 2013.
Graham, D., “Should You Try the Gluten-Free Diet?” The Toronto Star web site, September 29, 2012; www.thestar.com, last accessed June 12, 2013.
“U.S. Market for Gluten-Free Foods Reached $2.6 Billion in 2010,” MarketWire web site, February 23, 2011; www.marketwire.com, last accessed June 11, 2013.