Celiac.com 11/10/2008 - Dietary shifts in recent years towards more organic food choices and low carb diets have forever-altered the food pyramid—the grocery world is changing in response to our health concerns.  Now there is a new trend in the food world: the gluten-free diet.  According to Nielson reports, the gluten free sector of the grocery world grew 20% between June of 2007 and 2008.

 

With unarguable growth in this new direction, the word is spreading about conditions such as celiac disease and gluten intolerance.  But is gluten-free just the latest diet fad, belittling the severity of these diseases, or is it a trend in the right direction for the millions of Americans who are still undiagnosed?

 

One of the greatest fears surrounding the growth of the gluten-free trend is that people may indulge the diet for faddish reasons, discounting the severity of conditions such as celiac disease and gluten intolerance.

 

Celiac is an autoimmune disease that affects at least 1 in 133 Americans. When gluten is consumed, antibodies in the small intestines attack the gluten, damaging the intestinal lining and villi, small hair-like structures which extract nutrients from the food.  Without treatment, the body is rendered unable to absorb the proper nutrients from dietary food, leaving patients vulnerable to an entire host of serious, life-threatening diseases.  The prescribed treatment for celiac disease is an adherence to a completely gluten-free diet for the rest of the patient’s life.  Left undiagnosed and untreated, celiac disease can cause serious conditions such as cancer, osteoporosis and infertility.

 

Celiac disease is very serious, and it should not be discounted.  Far more common, and often as severe, however, is gluten intolerance.  Gluten intolerance can range in levels of severity, wreaking the same havoc on the body that celiac disease does, or in some cases simply causing gastrointestinal discomforts.  The key here is that gluten intolerance can in fact be as damaging to the body as celiac disease, and gluten intolerance is suspected to affect as many as 30% of Americans  (SOURCE: The Gluten Connection).

 

With every new trend comes controversy, but ultimately, the growth in interest in a gluten free diet will mean more research, more diagnoses and more food options.  Doctors often have a hard time diagnosing gluten intolerance and celiac disease, because of the broad range of symptoms and their lack of exposures to these diseases.  Patients often receive their diagnosis only after digging deeper, looking further than one or two doctors for the correct answer.

 

More coverage on these conditions, means more people with undiagnosed gluten intolerance or celiac disease will find their answer, and get the diagnoses they need.  People with gluten sensitivities are often very outgoing about them, and many write articles, post on forums, or start blogs.  One thing is for sure, the more people who get diagnosed, the more the word will spread.

 

Perhaps just as dietary trends or fads have taught us that carb-centric, processed food diets may not be the answer for optimal health, so too will the gluten free-movement correct our country’s addiction to the wheat-based diet.  Many argue that our diets should have never contained gluten to begin with, and today it is added to nearly all processed foods ranging from soups and sauces to seasonings and condiments.  The gluten-free diet may just be the latest trend for some people, but for many of us it is our only path to good health—and for this reason the gluten-free diet is here to stay.

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