Photo: Andrea Nguyen (flickr)
An increasing number of people are going gluten-free both out of necessity and by choice.
Following a gluten-free diet is necessary for people who have Celiac Disease. They can get sick if they consume even a hint of wheat. Researchers with the Mayo Clinic say the prevalence of people being diagnosed with the disease is increasing.
Nearly four times more people have Celiac Disease today than a half century ago. However, doctors do not know if that is because more people actually have the disease or if just more people are being diagnosed.
Lisa Means is a volunteer facilitator for the celiac support group at the IU Health Hospital Education Center. She says the symptoms of Celiac Disease vary widely though making it difficult to diagnose.
“Some people don’t know that they have it at all because they don’t have any kind of a stomach reaction to it,” she says. “It could be a skin reaction, or they may just feel really tired, or they may have neurological symptoms.”
Celiac Disease can be fatal if it goes untreated. But a number of people who are going gluten-free do not have the disease. IU registered dietician Bobbie Saccon goes so far as to call it a fad – especially among young people. She cautions people against entirely cutting any food group out of their diet unless they have a food allergy.
“If you’re able to follow a gluten-free diet in a healthful way using other grains, it could be a very healthy diet as well, but many times, especially when convenience and cost and time come in, it’s not always necessarily a healthy alternative,” she says.
Some restaurants have also begun catering to people who want to avoid eating wheat. At The Owlery in Bloomington restaurant owner Toby Foster says about 10 percent of his customers request gluten free options.
“I think that we definitely do appreciate when people are direct in that way and say that this is what is going on with me this is what I need from you,” he says. “We definitely appreciate having that kind of information.”
For people who have Celiac Disease, after they remove wheat from their diet they usually do not have any other complications.
For more on going gluten-free, listen to Noon Edition, WFIU’s weekly public affairs show.