Local business thriving on gluten-free offerings

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - In the past decade the number of people being tested for celiac disease in the country has exploded, mostly due to awareness of the side effects.

Looking at the gluten free trend as a business opportunity, the store Cookies by Design just launched a new cookie line and owner Dave Black is making some sweet profits.

"So far it's started as a nice roll off for us and it provides us with a whole new market of people who weren't able to eat our product before," said owner Dave Black.

With more and more people choosing a gluten-free diet market researcher Packaged Facts predicts Americans will spend more than $6 billion on gluten-free diets by 2017.

"I was amazed at how many people were actually excited about the fact that we were finally going to have something that was gluten free so they could enjoy it," said Black.

That includes those suffering from celiac disease, an autoimmune disease triggered by gluten proteins found in wheat barley and rye.

"With celiac disease this type of gluten free diet is a necessity, they have to do it," said Cheryl Kuhta-Sutter, Novant Health Registered Dietician.

"Your body is actually attacking its small intestine."

Some think gluten might cause even more problems.

"They are testing gluten with other kinds of disorders," said Kuhta-Sutter.

"Neurological disorders and ADD, ADHD would be involved."

However for others, Kuhta-Sutter says eliminating the protein all together can do more harm than good.

"You're going to miss a lot of fiber and B vitamins and minerals."

Whether out of necessity or a desire follow latest food trend...many people are swearing off gluten for good.

Symptoms for Celiac disease and gluten sensitivity are same. They include stomach aches, diarrhea, some joint pain, fatigue.

That's why experts say it's hard to diagnose and you do have to get tested.

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