February 5, 2013

GLUTEN-FREE, WHETHER YOU NEED IT OR NOT.

Now medical experts largely agree that there is a condition related to gluten other than celiac. In 2011 a panel of celiac experts convened in Oslo and settled on a medical term for this malady: non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

What they still do not know: how many people have gluten sensitivity, what its long-term effects are, or even how to reliably identify it. Indeed, they do not really know what the illness is.

The definition is less a diagnosis than a description — someone who does not have celiac, but whose health improves on a gluten-free diet and worsens again if gluten is eaten. It could even be more than one illness.

There’s something to the gluten-free business, but it does also seem to have elements of a fad. Plus, are artisanal bakers making you sick? “After testing blood samples from a century ago, researchers discovered that the rate of celiac appears to be increasing. Why is another mystery. Some blame the wheat, as some varieties now grown contain higher levels of gluten, because gluten helps provide the springy inside and crusty outside desirable in bread. (Blame the artisanal bakers.)”

UPDATE: Reader Paul Zalkauskas writes:

Two years ago I would have also considered the gluten-free diets of today a fad, but that was when I figured out that 15 years of suffering hives on at least a weekly basis turned out to be caused by gluten. Being a system engineer looking for root causes comes naturally to me. So I went on one elimination diet after another. Coffee, onions, peppers, anything that felt like it might be the culprit. One day I finally took my brother-in-laws advice and I stopped eating gluten. Besides the one pizza I ate about a year ago (followed by a massive hive attack) and then a beer that I couldn’t turn down about a month ago (also followed by a massive hive attack) I haven’t had any hives at all. I also have much more energy than before I stopped eating gluten. With my extra energy I took up the “Starting Strength” workout (thanks for the recommendation) and am in the best shape of my life at 50.

Cool.