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The U.S. is Striving for Gluten-Free Awareness

Posted Apr 24 2012 8:53pm

 Celiac disease affects three million American citizens, but only one of every hundred of its sufferers has been diagnosed. It is very likely that you have never heard of this easily treatable disease. Someone you know might even be suffering from it undiagnosed. If you live abroad you would probably have some awareness of it.

  Celiac disease( is an autoimmune diseasecaused by an allergic reaction to the component of wheat, barley, and rye, calledgluten, which can affect the entire body. Many of its painful symptoms are confused for the symptoms of other diseases, and most American doctors, uneducated in celiac disease, fail to diagnose it correctly.

 Several organizations in the United States are researching the disease and working hard to raise celiac awareness and support, such as the Celiac Disease Research Center at Columbia University, headed by Dr. Peter Green, MD, a Professor of Medicine at the University ( Dr. Green is personally responsible for the diagnosis of 2,400 people with celiac disease every year and is dedicated to increasing the celiac diagnosis rate in the United States.

 A higher rate of diagnosis yields a higher rate of support, Dr. Green says. This means more and more grocery stores and restaurants offeringgluten-free foodsandgluten-free cookingto gluten-intolerant consumers. Abroad, there are more gluten-free options available because there are more people diagnosed with gluten intolerance or celiac disease. For instance, every pizzeria in Sydney, Australia offers gluten-free pizza, made with gluten-free flour. Also, in Italy, the government gives funds to those with celiac disease so they can purchase gluten-free products so they stay healthy.

 In the United States, a slightly increased rate of celiac diagnosis among adults has already leaded to increased support. Gluten-free foods and gluten-free recipes are more readily available than ever. The Gluten-Free Restaurant Awareness Program (GFRAP) assists in the mutually beneficial relationship between people diagnosed with celiac disease or gluten intolerance and restaurants, resulting in an increase in the number of restaurants which can provide service to people following agluten-free dietwhile increasing their patronage. Participating restaurants are able to provide gluten-free meals. As more and more people are diagnosed with gluten intolerance, their list of participating restaurants will surely grow.

 So why is America so behind in celiac awareness? It probably has something to do with the fact that celiac disease is the only autoimmune disease that the government doesn’t support with research grants. Centers such as Dr. Green’s Celiac Disease Research Center are one-hundred percent dependent on charitable donations or university funds.

 Even thought diagnoss is slightly up for celiac adults, this is not enough to raise awareness and bring relief for the three million who suffer from celiac disease, nearly ninety-seven percent of whom don’t even know they cause of their painful and sometimes unbearable symptoms. With increased diagnosis, we will surely see increased support, and soon the celiac community will be able to enjoy the same quality of life and cooking options which is enjoyed by, for instance, the lactose-intolerant community. This would be such an accomplishment for the celiac community.


Miranda Jade Turbin 

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