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But some doctors may miss the signs. That’s because even though celiac disease has been around for centuries—possibly since the domestication of wild grains 10,000 years ago—the medical establishment in the U.S. has lagged behind in its attention to the disease.
“The rate of celiac diagnosis depends on which country you live in,” says Peter Green, M.D., director of the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University and author of Celiac Disease: A Hidden Epidemic. “It’s commonly recognized in the Scandinavian countries, Holland, Italy, Australia and Canada. In the United Kingdom, people diagnosed with the disease get gluten-free products from the national health plan as a pharmaceutical benefit. In Australia, there are gluten-free products on most menus. In Brazil, everything in a package is marked gluten-free or not. But in the United States, there wasn’t much interest in the disease for a long time, probably related to the fact that there was no pharmaceutical-industry involvement.”