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Duke Medicine: Why all the buzz about gluten free?

Posted May 6, 2013

Today, gluten-free products and diets are all the rage. In fact, a recent study finds as many as 1.6 million Americans avoid gluten, even though they haven’t been diagnosed with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.

Although there is no harm in eliminating gluten from your diet, doctors say there is no reason to avoid it—unless you’re one of the two million people who cannot tolerate the proteins.

“Gluten is bad for some people, but certainly not all,” explains Michelle Nacouzi, MD, a primary care physician at Duke Primary Care Brier Creek. “So unless you’ve been diagnosed with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, gluten-free products aren’t necessarily going to give you a health benefit.”

Once considered a rare childhood disorder, celiac was frequently misdiagnosed and just as frequently overlooked. Today, doctors are more attuned to the seemingly vague symptoms that can signal celiac disease, and diagnose it frequently in children as well as adults.

“Celiac disease is now estimated to be four times more common than it was 50 years ago,” Nacouzi says. “And more advanced diagnostic tests may be the reason it seems to be on the rise.”

But researchers also believe that the way wheat is now grown, the proliferation of processed foods, and the use of gluten in medications and vitamins, toothpaste, and lip balms, are all responsible for the increase in cases.

Read more about gluten free diets and celiac disease in the full post at DukeHealth.org. Duke Medicine, Go Ask Mom's sponsor, offers health information and tips every Tuesday.

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  • albegadeep May 8, 2013

    Note: gluten is a protein found in grains, especially wheat. No grain ingredients means no gluten. Some people are more allergic than others; those who are only mildly allergic can consume certain products containing some wheat, like cake. (But not bread.) Others have to avoid it entirely. Got questions? Ask your doctor.