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Some People Are Going Gluten-Free -- By Choice

CHICAGO (CBS) -- You've probably heard about going "gluten-free." It's become a popular new health craze.

There's gluten-free pizza and even cupcakes.

Just what is gluten-free? As CBS 2's Mary Kay Kleist reports, doctors warn it's not for everyone.

With three kids, a dog and a house to take care of, Julie Adams has a lot on her plate. Besides being tired all the time, Julie was feeling bloated and had stomach issues.

Her friend went gluten-free, so Julie tried it.

Gluten-free foods are everywhere these days -- from pastas to pizzas, from butter to beer.

Gluten is a protein in wheat, barley and rye. Going gluten-free is normally prescribed for patients with digestive disorders such as celiac disease,  but more and more people are giving up gluten, without doctor's orders.

Restaurants are even offering special gluten-free menus.

At a recent gluten and food-allergy conference in Oak Brook, a lot of enthusiasts said they dumped gluten on their own .

"I noticed more energy," student and blogger Hallie Klecker said.

Holistic nutritionist Ricki Heller believes that it's OK to go gluten-free without a doctor's diagnosis, especially if you're uncomfortable after a meal.

"One way to test yourself is to stop eating wheat for even four days, and you'll notice the difference right away, if that's your issue," Heller says.

Eating gluten-free without being diagnosed with a specific medical condition worries some doctors, however.

"When people go to a gluten-free diet, they may actually be getting less fiber and they might be getting vitamin deficiencies," says John Pandolfino, associate professor of medicine at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern.

Julie has dropped 18 pounds since December.

"I can get up out of bed in the morning and not feel like I have to take a nap," she says.

Doctors suggest that patients be tested to see if they really need a gluten-free diet.  And be careful about gluten-free products. They might be loaded with sugar and fat to make them taste better.

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