Increasing concern about medical maladies associated with consumption of gluten and a rapidly expanding number of product options are driving double-digital sales for gluten-free food and beverages, according to a new report from Packaged Facts.
The Benefits of a Gluten-Free Diet
For purposes of the study, gluten is defined as including both the proteins gliadin and glutenin found in wheat, and similar proteins found in rye, barley and triticale. Only foods and beverages that are marketed as gluten-free are included (those that are gluten-free by their nature, such as fresh fruit, are excluded).
Awareness and diagnoses of gluten-triggered medical conditions have increased greatly in recent years. The most common is celiac disease, a chronic inflammatory disorder of the small intestine estimated by experts to affect up to 1% of the U.S. population. Allergic reactions to gluten can also contribute to autism, multiple sclerosis, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, repetitive strain or stress injury, and irritable bowel syndrome.
For most of the population, eating gluten is a normal part of everyday life, but for those suffering from celiac disease or a wheat allergy, gluten can wreak havoc on the body, often in surprising ways. Gluten effects the digestive system of the afflicted person, most notably the small intestine – where most nutrients are absorbed – and prevents these nutrients from being absorbed by the body. This mal-absorption can manifest in many different, often unexpected, ways such as stomach pain, digestive pain, weight loss, bloating, lethargy, even depression, migraines, hormonal imbalances and mood swings. Not every person has the same symptoms which can often lead to misdiagnosis and improper treatment.
The only way to “treat” celiac disease or wheat allergies is to adopt a gluten-free diet. Although this may seem overwhelming at first, many people find that a gluten-free lifestyle is easily manageable with dedication, support and a little creativity. There’s a whole world of delicious gluten-free foods out there!