Gluten-free choices make life easier


By Shelby Thomas

These pretzels are a gluten-free snack for those with Celiac disease or those with a voluntary gluten-free diet. Photo by Rachael Mintz
These pretzels are a gluten-free snack for those with Celiac disease or those with a voluntary gluten-free diet.
Photo by Rachael Mintz

When looking at the food pyramid, the grains section stands out as the largest chunk of a healthy diet. Carbohydrates packed with easy energy are a staple of the typical American diet. Imagine reaching into the pantry and realizing that most brightly packaged breads and bags of chips are off limits.

Celiac disease is a genetic medical condition in which the body cannot process gluten, a sugar found in wheat. After someone with Celiac disease eats gluten, he or she can experience intestinal discomfort and pain. The more severe the case of Celiac disease is, the more severe the symptoms tend to be.

Eating a gluten-free diet is a treatment for Celiac that is typically prescribed by doctors and nutritionists alike. Alternatives to typical wheat fodder are lined up on grocery store shelves conscious of customers with Celiac and an emerging crowd of health nuts.

It’s said that gluten, which is a processed sugar, is not easily broken down by healthy bodies. Although the evidence for gluten’s unhealthiness is mixed, many health conscious dieters choose to eat gluten-free in order to lead a healthy lifestyle.

“Eating gluten-free was something that I heard about to lead a healthier life. We don’t need all these processed grains. Honestly, I feel better now that I’ve removed it from my diet,” Logan Lucas, senior, said.

Lucas, a varsity cross country and track athlete, did not feel any negative side effects after cutting gluten from her diet.

“I have more energy when I run since I started the diet, and the foods I do eat are clean and fresh, so the energy I do have is better used by my body,” Lucas said.

Although some are willingly making the switch to gluten-free foods, those affected by Celiac often do not have a choice in the matter. Andrew Johns, senior, has Celiac disease, but sometimes cheats on his prescribed diet.

“The pain can be terrible, but I’ll eat gluten anyway sometimes. I know I’m not supposed to, but sometimes it’s really hard seeing all your friends eat the stuff you’re craving,” Johns said.

SPINS, a market researcher that covers the natural product industry, reported a total of $12.4 billion in gluten-free food sales during 2012. Although this could be due to Celiac and gluten sensitivity awareness, a large portion of these sales could be due to dieters voluntarily going gluten-free.

With the endorsement of celebrities like Miley Cyrus and TIME awarding the gluten-free diet its #2 spot on food trends for 2012, the gluten-free diet serves as both a health trend and a viable dietary solution.

“I think it’s great that gluten-free is gaining more awareness. More awareness means more products, and I’m always looking out for new foods for me to try. My choices are so limited,” Johns said.