Lifewatch: Celiac disease and the gluten free diet

Reported by Claire Hosmann - bio|email
Posted by Debra Worley - email

(WECT) - Celiac disease is a digestive condition triggered by consumption of the protein gluten.  A new study by the Mayo Clinic shows the disease is now four times more common than it was 50 years ago.

Celebrities are touting gluten free foods for everything from weight loss to curing attention deficit disorder, and some companies are cashing in.

Christi Lancaster was diagnosed with celiac after getting sick, so she lost 60 pounds and wound up in the hospital.  Now, she can't touch gluten.

"Within two days I start to feel a headache come on, I get constipated," said Lancaster.  "My stomach starts grumbling and stays like that for a couple weeks."

Doctors aren't sure exactly why more people have celiac now, but it may be diagnosed more because they're looking harder.

"So we're testing a lot more people and the tests we have are much better at making the diagnosis - the lab tests that we can do," said Gastroenterologist Dr. David Levitan.

The gluten-free diets are generally safe for everyone, but probably not the cure-all some people claim.

"It's a healthy way to go, it's not going to hurt you but in general it's not a panacea for these kinds of things," said Dr. Levitan.

No treatment can cure celiac disease, but you can effectively manage it by changing your diet.

While the disease can affect anyone, it tends to be more common in people with type 1 diabetes, thyroid disease, or down syndrome.