The gluten allergy myth was debunked during an annual meeting at the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology. Dr. David Stukus blames the internet for widespread misinformation about allergies. According to Stukus, an allergy to gluten simply does not exist.
Dr. Stukus explained that gluten is being blamed for "all that ails humanity." There are three conditions which can make patients sensitive to gluten: celiac disease, wheat allergies, and non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Although some people are allergic to wheat, they often wrongly assume they are allergic to gluten.
A recent article by Today Health revealed that the gluten allergy myth has grown in popularity as patients seek information online. Stukus said he has been approached by numerous patients who are convinced they are allergic to gluten. They often gather their information on the internet.
The fad has gained momentum, with many products now labeled "gluten-free." Since more consumers are self-diagnosing, they are demanding products that are free of gluten.
Gluten is a protein found in barley, rye, and wheat. It is the ingredient that gives bread products a pleasant texture. Gluten has been blamed for numerous disorders, including autism and schizophrenia. However, a majority of the rumors are false.
As reported by Forbes, patients with celiac disease absolutely must avoid gluten. In patients with the disease, gluten can trigger a dangerous immune reaction, which damages the lining of the small intestine.
Fortunately, only one in 133 people actually have celiac disease. Patients are usually diagnosed through blood tests and intestinal biopsy.
People who self-diagnose often believe they have developed a gluten allergy or sensitivity. However, gluten allergies do not exist and gluten sensitivity is difficult to prove.
The symptoms are often vague, and could be caused by numerous other ailments. People who remove gluten from their diet report that they feel better and often lose weight. However, both can be attributed to avoiding carbohydrates and sugars found in many breads, pastas, and cakes.
Although the gluten allergy myth is responsible for a lot of misinformation, it has been great for food manufacturers. Within the last year, the fad was responsible for more than $4 billion in profits.
[Image via Wikimedia]