Foods containing gluten

Foods containing gluten (KTLA / May 9, 2012)

LOS ANGELES (KTLA) -- Gluten-free. It's the new buzz word as far as celebrity diets are concerned.

Pop star Miley Cyrus let the world know through a tweet that she had a gluten allergy. Kim Kardashian said on her website that "going gluten-free is the way to be." And tennis star Novac Djokovic posted a huge winning steak after giving up gluten.

All the buzz has many people shedding gluten in a bid to lose weight. But for some, it's a real medical issue.

It's estimated that one in every 133 people have Celiac Disease, a condition that makes it nearly impossible to ingest gluten. Ninety-seven percent of those people don't know they have the disease.

Gluten is a protein found in wheat grains, barley and rye. It's hidden in pasta, beer and even soy sauce.

Henry Grunzwieg, 18, said going gluten-free has helped him feel much better.

"If I eat things like burritos, I get symptoms equivalent to food poisoning," he said. "I was laid out for three days at a time due to stomach pain and fatigue.

"People with Celiac Disease need to be extremely careful about how much gluten they can eat," said Dr. Greg Harmon at the UCLA Celiac Disease Program. "The smallest amounts for some patients can cause damage."

Still, doing away with gluten can be hazardous to people who don't have Celiac and who don't know how to adopt the correct gluten-free diet. It can even lead to weight gain, doctors say.

That's because the food supply that contains gluten is rich in certain types of B vitamins and fibers.

"If people start restricting their diet broadly, it can lead to a diet that's really not nutritious," Harmon said.

So if you want to do away with gluten, talk to your doctor first.