Why go gluten-free?

You have to wonder what the world’s coming to when so many people can’t eat that staple of the American diet, wheat.

What went wrong? Why does it make so many folks sick?

Nutritionists, doctors and naturopaths all have different theories, but the most common one is that farmers genetically altered the grain to make it easier to grow, harvest and store. A generation or two later and presto, the stronger, more potent form of modern wheat adversely affects some of those who consume it.

The symptoms vary. Only half of those allergic to wheat (and to a much smaller degree, barley and rye, the other two grains where gluten is found) suffer gastrointestinal disorders such as bloating and diarrhea, which are associated with celiac disease, said Natural Grocers health coach Tiffany Stombaugh, who is schooled in nutrition.

Others who can’t tolerate gluten incur symptoms such as joint and muscle pain, skin rashes, swollen glands, sore throat and fatigue.

And now, the ultimate form of flattery, many folks who have no difficulty at all eating gluten-filled goodies – pizza, pastries, pasta – are giving them up. Whether athletes seeking a more perfect performance or health care workers concerned about the long-term effects of a gluten-heavy diet, gluten-free living is entering the mainstream.

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