Doctors Can’t tell the Difference Between Gluten Sensitivity and Hypochondria

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Woman looks exasperated as she stares down at medicine bottles on the table in front of her

BALTIMORE – Walking down the supermarket aisles, it’s striking to see how many products boast being gluten free. Everything from butter to bacon is suddenly healthy again post-Atkins due to the demonization of gluten. But why? Are that many people really allergic or sensitive to gluten?

By definition, gluten sensitivity is just symptoms that seem to disappear once the patient stops eating gluten. Symptoms include everything from tummy aches to bad hair days and flaking out friends. However, a recent study on Gluten Sensitivity revealed that all the media buzz, product packaging claims and incessant need to rationalize every trivial human discomfort has created a new strain of hypochondria known as gluten-specific hypochondria (GSH).

The Gastroenterology team at Johns Hopkins University conducted studies of 50 people claiming to be gluten sensitive. “People were clearly suffering from something,” said Dr. Anandi Ganguly. “But it wasn’t in their stomachs, it was in their heads.”

Ed Whynzalot complained of stomach problems after having a sandwich. “It was right after eating,” Whynzalot said. “I figured there was something wrong with me, and then I realized: I’m gluten intolerant. At least that’s what I’m getting from WebMD, and those are real doctors on there.”

Dr. Ganguly said that there’s so much hype about gluten these days that it’s starting to catch on. “People are jumping on the gluten-free bandwagon, some because they think they’ll be healthier,” the doctor said. “It’s contagious too. When people see friends freaking out about gluten, they get freaked out too. After a while people are convinced.”

Janneane Nervrosa was certainly convinced. “All my friends seemed to be getting it,” she said. “I figured it was bound to happen to me too. I never escape these things. I’m sensitive to caffeine, sugar, fried food, hot food, cold food and now gluten.”