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If you’re like me, you may have noticed an increase in foods labelled or promoted as being gluten-free. Restaurants too are offering an increasing number of gluten-free options. So what is going on? Is it a left-wing, communist conspiracy or a right-wing, fascist plot to change the way Americans eat? Will the “food police” soon be knocking on your door to check your pantry for gluten? While to some it might seem like it, it’s actually a response by the food industry to an increasing number of people diagnosed with celiac disease or who are following a gluten-free diet.

Gluten is a naturally occurring protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. Unfortunately, for an estimated 1 in 100 people consuming foods containing gluten causes their immune system to go “haywire” and attack their small intestine causing substantial damage in the process, a disorder called celiac disease. There is no cure for celiac disease and the only effective treatment is to refrain from eating foods that contain gluten. Foods that commonly contain gluten, unless specifically labelled as gluten free, include breads, pastas, pastries (and other baked goods), cereals, soups, sauces, salad dressings, beer, and malt liquor.

Even the smallest amount of gluten can harm someone with celiac disease regardless of symptoms. Some people with celiac disease have no symptoms at all while others can have severe abdominal pain, joint pain, migraines and extreme fatigue. Most have symptoms that lie somewhere in between. If left untreated, other disorders can develop including diabetes, multiple sclerosis, anemia, intestinal cancer, osteoporosis and dementia.

So if you’re like me, someone who has celiac disease, it’s a good thing that the food industry is making more gluten-free foods available because it provides us with a little peace of mind and allows us to enjoy eating out with a little less worry. For more information about gluten and celiac disease, visit https://celiac.org.