Talk Of The Gluten-Free Nation

Look at her. So happy and care-free with her burger. But for how long?

Look at her. So happy and care-free with her burger. But for how long? iStockphoto hide caption

itoggle caption iStockphoto

This summer marks the sixth anniversary of my diagnosis with celiac disease. If you don't know, it's a digestive disorder that basically means that my body has broken up with wheat and gluten and it will severely punish me if I choose to eat it.

When people find out this fun fact, the conversation that ensues is pretty standard:

Wheat-eater: OMG. What do you eat?

Me: Oh, I don't know meat and veggies, sometimes some gluten-free products. No regular pasta, pizza, bread, baked goods, etc.

Wheat-eater: Have you always had this? How did you find out?

Me: I got really sick out of the blue some years ago. This continued for five months until I lost ten pounds in 1 week and made the doctor figure out what was wrong.

Wheat-eater: Wow, so do you know what caused it?

Me: Ummmm....

I never have a good answer for this last question, and neither do the researchers who study the condition. It's estimated that, one in every 133 Americans have got this thing and it's not clear why. There are a few theories:

1. We are too clean. Fewer diseases = less developed immune systems.

2. There's more gluten in the grain.

3. There's more awareness of the disease now, so rates have increased.

4. Genetic predisposition.

Whatever the cause, recent studies show that it's on the rise. Nearly five times as many people have celiac disease today compared with the 1950s. According to another report, the rate of the disease has double every 15 years since 1974. And if you weren't scared already, Dr. Alessio Fasano, who heads the Center for Celiac Research at the University of Maryland says, "You're never too old to develop celiac disease."

There's still time to be forced into my club! I wouldn't wish this on anyone, but I must say it's really not that bad, especially since there are so many gluten-free products now. There's cereal, snacks, pasta, and cupcakes that were nowhere to be found when I started this journey. It's easy not to cheat too, since the alternative is feeling a burning sensation in my stomach and then spending a lot of time in the bathroom. (You know you were wondering!)

So, on the one hand, it may seem like celiac disease is coming to take over the world and I know you're not ready to kiss your breakfast items and desserts goodbye. On the other, I saw a book today called, Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight and Find Your Path Back to Health. In a few years, we'll probably just abandon the search for a cause or cure and make it the new Atkins. I'm just ahead of the curve.

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