Is Gluten Free Just a Fad?

Articles
June 08, 2009

Is Gluten Free Just a Fad?

Some claim gluten free is the new black, as awareness around this diet and the incidence of celiac disease increases, so to does the rise of skeptics and disbelievers. Well haters better step aside (and pay attention), celiac disease is arguably one of the most common autoimmune diseases, affecting around 1 in 133; this amounts to approximately 3 million Americans.¹ Its prevalence is significantly underestimated, and in fact affects more Americans than type 1 diabetes, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis and cystic fibrosis combined. Sadly, only three percent are aware that they have inherited this condition and are intolerant to the protein gluten, found in wheat (including durum, semolina, spelt, kamut, einkorn, and faro), barley, and rye. Symptoms of celiac disease can include, but are not limited to: fatigue, joint or bone pain, chronic diarrhea, constipation, abdominal bloating, tingling in the hands and feet, anemia, and weight loss. The body’s immune response to gluten damages the lining of the small intestine. The damage interferes with the absorption of vital nutrients from food, impairing proper bodily functions- thus resulting in a variety of possible symptoms. The small intestine is also one of the key actors in the immune system; damaging this critical organ significantly weakens the immune response. The only “prescription” for celiac disease is a strict, life-long, gluten free diet. How can it be possible that so many people are intolerant to wheat, the main ingredient in bread, the staff of life? Some blame the modernization of agriculture; specifically the hybridization of the American wheat crop to contain a higher gluten content- producing the fluffy cakes, muffins and bread that we all crave and love. However, the concern is that the gluten molecule has undergone structural changes thus possibly resulting in a more allergenic structure.

Some claim gluten free is the new black, as awareness around this diet and the incidence of celiac disease increases, so to does the rise of skeptics and disbelievers.  Well haters better step aside (and pay attention), celiac disease is arguably one of the most common autoimmune diseases, affecting around 1 in 133; this amounts to approximately 3 million Americans.¹  Its prevalence is significantly underestimated, and in fact affects more Americans than type 1 diabetes, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis and cystic fibrosis combined.  Sadly, only three percent are aware that they have inherited this condition and are intolerant to the protein gluten, found in wheat (including durum, semolina, spelt, kamut, einkorn, and faro), barley, and rye.

Symptoms of celiac disease can include, but are not limited to: fatigue, joint or bone pain, chronic diarrhea, constipation, abdominal bloating, tingling in the hands and feet, anemia, and weight loss.  The body’s immune response to gluten damages the lining of the small intestine.  The damage interferes with the absorption of vital nutrients from food, impairing proper bodily functions- thus resulting in a variety of possible symptoms.  The small intestine is also one of the key actors in the immune system; damaging this critical organ significantly weakens the immune response.  The only “prescription” for celiac disease is a strict, life-long, gluten free diet.

How can it be possible that so many people are intolerant to wheat, the main ingredient in bread, the staff of life?  Some blame the modernization of agriculture; specifically the hybridization of the American wheat crop to contain a higher gluten content- producing the fluffy cakes, muffins and bread that we all crave and love.  However, the concern is that the gluten molecule has undergone structural changes thus possibly resulting in a more allergenic structure.

Luckily celiac awareness and the gluten free lifestyle are gaining speed in both the medical field and by the general public; wide ranging symptoms and lack of knowledge, previously hampered diagnosis for on average 11 years!  Some will live symptom free for years and a stressful event, such as physical injury or illness can trigger or “activate” the disease.

Those with celiac disease who consistently consume gluten can increase their chances of developing gastrointestinal cancer by a factor of 40 to 100 times that of the normal population. Furthermore, GI cancer or lymphoma develops in up to 15 percent of patients with untreated or refractory celiac disease.  For these reasons it is essential for celiacs to follow a strict gluten free diet, or if you suspect you may be intolerant to gluten speak to your doctor and request the proper tests.

It should be noted that gluten intolerance due to celiac disease is entirely different from a gluten or wheat allergy.  A food allergy is when the body produces a specific allergic reaction after eating a certain food.  Itching is the most common reported food allergy, followed by nasal, gastrointestinal and respiratory symptoms, which vary in severity depending on the individual.  If you have a food allergy or intolerance, or are cooking for someone who does, it is important that you respect their requests, as the consequences can be life threatening. 

For some, gluten free may be the new trendy health kick, but celiacs will not be ditching this diet any time soon.

We at SupermarketGuru.com know that finding tasty gluten free foods can sometimes be difficult- but check our weekly “New Product Hits and Misses Videos” which often include great gluten free options.

¹ http://www.uchospitals.edu/pdf/uch_007937.pdf