Gluten Intolerance: Why It's a Growing Problem

You've probably noticed a growing selection of gluten-free products on your grocery store shelves over the past few years. An increasing number of people today seem to have trouble tolerating gluten—a substance contained in wheat and other grains.

Range of Gluten Sensitivity

Gluten sensitivity causes an inflammatory response in the body that can lead to many health problems, ranging from mild stomach ailments to a serious digestive condition called celiac disease—which is when the body attacks tissue of the small intestine and prevents it from being able to absorb nutrients properly. Some people with a gluten sensitivity can also be at risk of experiencing other serious autoimmune disorders.

The Growing Problem of Gluten Intolerance and Gluten Allergies

Exactly why more people are experiencing issues with gluten isn't quite clear, but scientists do have several possible theories to explain the phenomenon:

  1. The modern wheat supply in the United States has a higher gluten content that could cause more people to experience gluten intolerance or gluten allergies.
  2. A select group of people are genetically programmed to have trouble with gluten and this gene is being passed down through their families.
  3. More awareness about gluten has led to more people with a gluten sensitivity to get a proper diagnosis.
  4. Many people who think they can't handle gluten may actually be experiencing symptoms from other causes.

Research on Gluten Intolerance and Early Death

While some people wrongly assume they can't tolerate gluten and go gluten free even though no real need exists, other people who really should be avoiding gluten may be missing the signs that a problem exists. The latter scenario can be quite dangerous, according to a study reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) in September 2009. The researchers discovered that people with any type of reaction to gluten, even if it was a subtle one, were at an increased risk of dying early from some other disorder, including cancer and heart disease. This fact should alert people to take gluten sensitivity quite seriously.

What You Can Do

If you have sensitivity to gluten that still hasn't been addressed, see your doctor. Also, pay attention to the relationship between what you eat and how you feel afterward. If you suspect that you could have a gluten intolerance try going gluten free for a few weeks and see if your symptoms subside.




ABC News. "Gluten Intolerance: Sensitivity or Celiac Disease?" 20 Feb. 2012. Web. 21 April 2012.

American Celiac Disease Alliance.  "What is Celiac Disease?"  Web. 21 April 2012.

Beck, Melinda. "Clues to Gluten Sensitivity." Wall Street Journal. 15 March 2011. Web. 21 April 2012.

Brown, Amy. "Gluten sensitivity: problems of an emerging condition separate from celiac disease." Expert Review of Gastroenterology and Hepatology 6 (1) (Feb. 2012): 43-55. Web. 25 April 2012.

Hyman, Mark. "Gluten: What You Don't Know Might Kill You." Huffington Post.  2 Jan. 2012. Web. 21 April 2012.