My friend’s 20-something daughter, who had been suffering with stomach problems and skin rashes for 18 months, suddenly began to feel much better after beginning a gluten-free diet upon the suggestion of a “naturalist” physician (my friends term). Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley, and in some people it causes serious health problems. Celiac disease, also known as gluten intolerance, is a genetic disorder that affects at least 1 in 133 Americans. Symptoms of celiac disease can range from the classic features, such as diarrhea, weight loss, and malnutrition, to latent symptoms such as isolated nutrient deficiencies but no gastrointestinal symptoms.
This disease has gained attention recently as many people are considering cutting back on gluten-laden foods for many reasons. Oprah Winfrey undertook a “21-day cleanse” this summer, eliminating meat, dairy, sugar, caffeine — and gluten. There are lots of gluten-free products available. In fact marketers estimate that 15% to 25% of consumers want gluten-free foods — though doctors estimate just 1% have celiac disease, says Cynthia Kupper, executive director of the non-profit Gluten Intolerance Group of North America. Is a gluten-free diet good for us, even if we don’t have symptoms of gluten intolerance? [Read more…]