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Living Gluten-Free in a Wheat World with Celiac Disease

Gluten Free Food

For about 3 million people in the United States who have celiac disease, wheat is the enemy. Living gluten-free can be a challenge, but there are some people who are making it easier for celiacs to live in a wheat world.

Gluten-free foods are becoming easier to find

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease in which individuals cannot tolerate foods that contain gluten, a protein found in all forms of wheat (e.g., durum, kamut, semolina, spelt) as well as related grains such as barley, rye, and triticale. Since 1974, the rate of celiac disease has doubled every 15 years in the United States, with approximately 1 in 133 people living with the disease.

Because so many foods are wheat-based or contain gluten, including many processed foods, individuals who must avoid gluten can have a difficult time finding foods they can eat, both at home and especially when eating out. Buying a simple loaf of bread or box of pasta, for example, means they must look for products made from rice, corn, or amaranth flour.

Awareness of the plight of those with celiac is growing. Among those offering assistance to celiac sufferers is the Celiac Sprue Association, which provides a comprehensive food list intended to help individuals choose gluten-free foods. Gluten-free foods are available from a growing number of companies, some of which include Glutino, Gluten-Free Pantry, Bakery on Main, Bob’s Red Mill, Cream Hill Estates, Ener-G, Maxwell’s Kitchen, Namaste, Nature’s Path, PureFit, Thai Kitchen, and Tinkyada, among others.

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The Children’s Digestive Health and Nutrition Foundation offers a comprehensive online guide called “Gluten-Free Diet Guide for Families,” which provides critical information such as “Overlooked Sources of Gluten,” a gluten-free shopping list, and tips on how to eat away from home.

If you are looking for grocery stores that carry gluten-free foods, there is a website called Gluten Free Groceries where you can look for such supermarkets by state. Whole Foods, Safeway, Hy-Vee, and Trader Joes are among the grocery stores best known for carrying gluten-free foods.

On the restaurant scene, chefs are gradually catering to the special dietary needs of those who cannot tolerate gluten. In Atlantic City, for example, the restaurant at Harrah’s Resorts serves up gluten-free food. At that restaurant, James Harris is the only chef in an Atlantic City casino restaurant that has been trained through the National Foundation of Celiac Awareness of Philadelphia, according to a report in the Cape May County Herald. If you are looking for a restaurant in your area that caters to celiac customers, you can check out various celiac-friendly restaurant directories online.

The need for a gluten-free diet can be especially troublesome for the elderly, who often have other health problems as well and may have difficulties getting proper nutrition. A gluten-free diet may also be helpful for people who have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism.

People who have celiac disease face daily challenges living in a wheat world. However, awareness of the need for more gluten-free foods is growing, and resources are available.

Cape May County Herald
Celiac Sprue Foundation
Children’s Digestive Health and Nutrition Foundation
Image source: Wikimedia