Reporter's Notebook

Why Go Gluten-Free?
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Readers discuss the health craze and share their own experiences with giving up gluten. Join them via hello@theatlantic.com.

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Going Gluten Free

Reader Dean says hello@:

You asked, so here’s my gluten-free story (safe for Celiacs to read):

I’m not a Celiac, but I do have Crohn’s disease, an inflammatory autoimmune disorder which often causes similar symptoms in the digestive tract. When I was first diagnosed with Crohn’s, a course of steroids followed by immunosuppressive drugs was enough to keep me in relatively good health.

Slowly, though, my symptoms returned. After two years, I was again underweight and anemic (a six-foot-tall male in my twenties, I weighed about 130 pounds at my lightest), with chronic, debilitating stomach pains and other symptoms which made my life very hard.

The vast majority of people who avoid gluten don’t have celiac disease or even a gluten sensitivity, but as reader Rachel can attest, there’s a big upside to the proliferation of all the GF products and menus fueled by the fad (even as Hamblin noted the downsides):

I found out 10 years ago this month that I had Celiac. I was having horrible stomach pain, reflux, ulcers, etc, and at 19 I had zero quality of life. My biopsy came back positive for Celiac but my blood-work was negative, so my doctors weren’t sure at the time how to diagnose me.

Going gluten-free 10 years ago was one of the most overwhelming and terrifying things I had ever experienced. My doctor flat told me I could continue to eat gluten but I would most likely develop colon cancer by the time I was 40.

Another reader, Meg, shares her non-diagnosed but very real experience as someone “who is non-celiac but has benefited from a gluten-free diet”:

I think we enjoy sharing our stories because it is so incredulous to even us that an innocent cereal grain we enjoyed our whole lives could be the root of so much trouble. We wonder how we ourselves could be unobjectionably afflicted by a gluten intolerance at the same time the “gluten-free movement” is gaining so much traction. Yet the evidence is there. We don’t have answers, but we know it to be true.

For me, it started with a series of gradual and strange ailments at age 34: pancreatitis; shooting pains in my hands and feet and other joint pain; and finally, trigeminal neuralgia. This last one was the worst pain imaginable, like a searing frozen knife jabbing my left temple, cheekbone, teeth, and ear.

I sought doctors for each issue and each validated my pain [CB note: Here’s a contrasting series of reader stories], but they could find no underlying issue. It was a nightmare for me, and confusing and scary for my husband. Before all of this, I didn’t even have a primary care doctor. Within months, I had a half-dozen specialists and a clinical therapist.

The breakthrough came when I googled all of my symptoms together in one search. What resulted, a dozen times over, was not celiac disease (which hadn’t yet occurred to me) but MS. This was actually a relief—a matter-of-fact explanation for all of my symptoms.