By Mary O’KEEFE
Shoppers at local grocery and health food stores have no doubt noticed more and more products with a “Gluten Free” label. It is not a fad or a new diet craze. For many, gluten free can mean the difference between living a healthy life and suffering.
There are those who are allergic to gluten and then a growing diagnosed population that has celiac disease (CD).
Thanks to the effort by California State Senator Bob Huff, the Senate Concurrent Resolution 7 has designated May as Celiac Disease Awareness Month.
To help celebrate the new designation a store dedicated to making it easier to shop gluten free had its grand opening on Monday. Pam MacD’s Gluten Free Market at 3516 Magnolia Blvd. in Burbank opened its doors to a hassle free way of shopping. Those who have chosen to follow a gluten free diet whether from necessity or choice can stroll down the aisles without worrying about labels because everything is gluten free. From chips to cereals and candy bars the market is a celiac sufferers nirvana.
“Six years ago my daughter and I were diagnosed with celiac disease,” said Deb Wheaton of La Crescenta.
Wheaton has made it her mission not only to understand the disease but also to raise awareness.
“Celiac disease is the most commonly misdiagnosed disease,” Wheaton said. “The average delay in diagnosis is nine years. But [CD] can completely be controlled by diet.”
According to the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center, CD affects at least three million Americans. In average healthy people one in 133 have CD.
The disease is a lifelong inherited autoimmune condition that affects the digestive process of the small intestine. When a person who has celiac disease consumes gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye and barley, the individual’s immune system responds by attacking the small intestine and inhibiting the absorption of important nutrients into the body. Undiagnosed and untreated, celiac disease can lead to the development of other autoimmune disorders, as well as osteoporosis, infertility, and neurological conditions and in rare cases, cancer, according to the www.celiacdisease.net University of Chicago.
The demand for gluten free foods has grown.
“It was a $3 billion industry in 2010 and is expected to grow to a $5 billion this year,” Wheaton said. “This is not a fad.”
At the grand opening market owner Pam MacDonald welcomed her guests. She also has CD and understands how difficult it has been to find good tasting food that is gluten-free. The myth that this type of diet offers little choice is dispelled as shoppers taste samples of provided by vendors that were there for the grand opening.
Rudi’s Organic Bakery served peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, XO Baking Company had samples of fudge brownies and gingerbread cookie mix and thinkThin bars offered even more sweetness to the day.
Like MacDonald and Wheaton, the founder and CEO of thinkThin, Lizanne Falsetto, came up with her product to fill a need for healthy food.
“She didn’t feel good [when she ate a] gluten diet. And her daughter was diagnosed as being sensitive to gluten,” said Tania Konishi, with thinkThin.
She does not have CD but is sensitive and must watch her diet.
All thinkThin products are gluten free including all flavors of thinkThin Protein, Crunch and bites.
PF Changs restaurant was also represented at the grand opening. For years the restaurant has had a specific gluten-free menu.
Wheaton said she went to PF Changs for Mother’s Day and enjoyed being able to eat without worry.
“They serve [gluten free] food on a plate that is shaped differently than that of the regular menu,” Wheaton said.
The grand opening was also the premier of two public service announcements that were produced by Wheaton and her partner Susan Valdes, with help from Wheaton’s husband.
The announcements introduce the disease and let those who are struggling know there is hope.
For more information on CD visit Wheaton’s website/blog www.notevenacrumb.com.
Click on the QR code to see the video of the grand opening or visit www.cvweekly.com and click on video.