Healthy Living

Aug 8, 2014 1:53 PM by Keli Moore, KSBY

Gluten-free: What you need to know

Eating clean or gluten-free has become a diet trend, so popularized that foods free from wheat, barley and rye are now a $6-billion industry.

As of Aug. 5, the Food and Drug Administration ruled foods containing more than 20 parts per million of gluten cannot be marketed at gluten-free -- ensuring that those products are technically free of wheat, rye and barley. That amount is generally recognized by the medical community to be low enough so that most people who have celiac disease won't get sick if they eat it.

In the past, the term "gluten-free" had not been regulated, and manufacturers made their own decisions about what it meant.

Medical professionals want to remind people -- a gluten-free diet is medicine for people with celiac disease.

"Oh, I hear people say I eat gluten-free because I want to lose weight or it's trendy. I always tell them you're crazy because it is not easy to stay gluten-free, it really isn't," said Brenda Reynolds, who lives in Santa Margarita.

By eliminating wheat, barley and rye from her diet, Brenda Reynolds said eating gluten-free changed her life.

"I was in and out of the hospital like six or seven times in a summer period of time," said Reynolds. "I lost a bunch of weight. It came on rapidly. They wondered if it was just hormonal changes. Doctors didn't really didn't know."

Multiple blood tests later and a new doctor, she was diagnosed with celiac disease.

"Symptoms can be variable. Most people think that the symptoms are abdominal pain, diarrhea and weight loss and perhaps iron deficiency, but it turns out a lot of other patients might have constipation or a skin rash," explained Dr. Vance Rodgers, Central Coast Gastroenterology.

"It is actually the allergic reaction to gluten. A lot of people are gluten intolerant. I happen to have the allergy the actual disease of celiac," said Reynolds.

Celiac disease is an immune reaction to a protein strand in wheat, called gluten.

"It is a spectrum of disease. What we know is that it is related to immune reaction to grasses," explained Dr. Rodgers. "It's very important to be diagnosed. About one in 1 in 30 people in this country have celiac disease and a lot go undiagnosed because you can develop osteoperosis, anemia and iron deficiency."

"When you have celiac, you kind of shop like a diabetic," explained Reynolds.

Reynolds noticed a difference in her health one month after eating gluten-free. Initially, navigating the grocery store was a challenge, but with the new FDA labeling requirements, many will have peace of mind.

"In the past when I read that, I just put it down. I'm like nope because modified food starch most of the time has wheat in it or gluten in it and so I just put the item down," said Reynolds. "Now, I should be able to not have to decipher that and set something down because it'll be clearly written whether or not it has gluten in it and that's huge."

Celiac disease is genetic and you have it for life. However, on a gluten-free diet you can be without symptoms.

There are many Central and South coast companies that make gluten free products and most grocery chains have a large selection of items.

The new FDA regulations don't require companies to label something with gluten or without, it's a recommendation for products that fit the gluten-free requirements.

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