I know I have problems with gluten grains beyond any normal damage. I haven't had a gut biopsy or ELISA, but there is these days a 100% correlation for me of eat gluten -> GI distress. I know at least one family member for whom this is also the case. I don't know if it's celiac, allergy, whatever, and I don't particularly care, because it's enough for me to know that avoiding gluten avoids significant problems.
However, I have in the past couple years seen an absolute explosion in people talking about celiac, most often self-diagnosed; and in gluten-free foods. I know that perhaps as early as three years ago, I almost never saw glutenous-food substitutes (e.g., gluten-free cookies, pasta, bread) at any non-specialty grocery store. Labeling of foods as gluten-free has also certainly gone up.
I know I'm not the only one who's notice this; see Rubio-Tapia et al., Gastroenterology July 2009.
Some is probably attributable to increased awareness, but the above study suggests that the prevalence itself seems to be increasing.
My family member who reacts to gluten suggests it may be due to the increase in GM foods. I doubt this since, unless my information is out of date, transgenic wheat is not in the food supply at this time. While selectively-bred varieties are widely-used, they have been for more than a century, so it seems unlikely that would only suddenly become a problem.
So, I'm wondering what the cause is. I'm sure we can't do much more than speculate, but if anybody has any ideas I'd be interested to hear them.
Increased consumption of n-6 oils and fructose leading to inflammation which increases susceptibility to gluten damage causing permanent immune response?
Higher gluten-grain consumption than previous generations?
A combination of a fad leading to higher public self-diagnosis, and more sensitive tests leading to higher real diagnosis?