Gluten Free Grows In The Grand Valley

By: James Hopkins
By: James Hopkins

Many local stores and restaurants are adding to the variety of foods they carry all to accommodate a growing need for gluten free diets. The disorder is called Celiac disease, and it affects a growing number of people across America. "1 in 100 people has it and many of them don't even know it," says Dr. Masi Khaja, Gastroenterologist.

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease in which the consumption of gluten causes the body's immune system to attack and damage the small intestine. "If left untreated it can lead to more serious problems, even cancer," says Khaja. A simple blood test can catch the disease and once treated patients usually get back to normal quickly. "Gluten free diets usually have patients back to normal in 1 to 2 weeks," says Khaja.

With more doctors diagnosing the disease, there's a growing number of people who are in need of this special diet. "I see it growing, we're asked everyday for gluten free products," says Nancy Burdette of Vitamin Cottage. Vitamin Cottage has been stocking gluten free products on just about every isle since the store opened in 2003, and they are looking to add to their selection everyday. "We keep looking to add to our selection, customers bring in stuff and we try to carry it for them," says Burdette.

Many restaurants are following the growing trend. "People are pretty pleased when they find out we have gluten free pizza," says Brooke Hudson of Boston's Gourmet Pizza. Boston's just added the new pizza to their menu this year but has plans to add more items in the future. "Possibly some gluten free beer," says Hudson. There are many other restaurants in the area, like Olive Garden, Chili's and Outback Steakhouse that also offer gluten free items on their menus'.

Now that the disease is more widely known, the need may just get bigger. "It's been around for a long time, we just are now starting to look for it," says Khaja. Experts say that if you have a family member who has Celiac disease, you have a 1 in 39 chance of having the disease, if it's an immediate member, you chance jumps to 1 in 22.

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