Have you noticed the plethora of gluten-free foods on the shelves of your local grocery store — pastas, cereals, baking mixes, and more. For folks suffering from celiac disease, a gluten allergy, these foods are vital to their daily diet, and according to a study by the Mayo Clinic, celiac disease is four times more common today than it was in the 1950s. It's estimated that one in every 133 people has celiac disease.
Allergies to gluten, the protein in wheat, rye, barley, and possibly oats, create a wide variety of symptoms including: painful stomach cramps, bloating, gas, increased appetite (due to malabsorption of nutrients), weight loss, fatigue, constipation, or diarrhea. Not only that but eating these foods causes damage to the villi in the intestines, affecting the body's ability to absorb nutrients properly. It can also be fatal, so it's really important to avoid gluten-filled foods if you're allergic.
The most likely explanation may be due to our environment. Culturally, we tend to be such germaphobes; all our cleaning and killing germs may be contributing to an overall increase in allergies, asthma, and immune system reactions. This "hygiene hypothesis" may fall short though since celiac disease is a global issue, affecting both developed and developing countries. A competing explanation revolves around the overly processed nature of most gluten products, and many people's diets consist mainly of foods such as bread, pasta, and baked goods. We may be overdoing it. Though scientists have yet to pinpoint the exact cause of this condition, I'm sure they're working on figuring it out since it's become so common. Tell me, do you know anyone with celiac disease?