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I'm a Marketing/Advertising pro with 15 years experience in retail, restaurant & cpg industries.  Celiac Disease saved my family and has inspired me to be a student of gluten, an advocate for awareness and eager to help businesses that serve our growing market to DO GLUTEN-FREE RIGHT!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Time to embrace the fad & LEAD

I'm a student of the gluten-free world and am obsessed.

My studies began when my baby was ill for two very long months. Countless doctors insisted it was a virus that plagued him with constant diarrhea and vomiting. He had undergone countless tests, cat scans, ultrasounds, xrays (including a celiac panel of which the positive results got overlooked)  and I was told to load him with calories, allow him to eat an entire loaf of fresh bread, go for the fast-food nuggets and fries... eat as much as he could. And he did. And he got worse.  Finally, during one of my endless nights I found myself on the website celiac.com and was blown away. The symptoms, the answers, it was all there! I tried a gluten-free diet the very next day (after a phone call to the pediatric gi specialists office, where they assured me that his issue was viral and he did not have celiac disease) and within hours he dramatic showed signs of improvement.

I was angry. But encouraged. Thank God for the world wide web. There is so much to discover, so little truly known about the effects of gluten from science but so much to learn from other people - books to websites, bloggers and online news outlets.  There is plethora of gluten-free information, unbelievable stories and then there is the news, so much of it.... is crap!

The big news of the moment in the gluten-free community is that NPD research found that 30 percent of adults, one in every three adults, claimed to cut down on or avoid gluten completely in January 2013.  That's big news. One that's caught the attention of the media and online news organizations. And much of the news is harsh. There is a lot of celebrity name dropping. But most offensive to me is the constant reference to gluten-free as a trend or a fad.

Right off the bat, let me say... if someone is buying gluten-free pretzels instead of regular pretzels because Hannah Montana said it's cool.... count these people out. Don't even bother. It's pointless.

But let's get serious...
1 in 100 or maybe 133 (depending on the source you read) people suffer from celiac disease.
About 90% of the people suffering from celiac disease DO NOT KNOW that they have celiac disease.
A significant portion of the population (sources vary, somewhere between 6% and 30%) have some degree of gluten-intolerance. And most of these people DO NOT KNOW that they have a gluten-intolerance. How could they? The medical community can't seem to figure out the celiac thing, gluten-intolerance is miles off the radar.

Or maybe they, the suffering, are figuring it out! Dr. Oz has been talking about gluten quite a bit and cluing his audience in.  It's been mentioned on the Biggest Loser. And Dr. William Davis has gotten a lot of media coverage (look him up if you want to know why).  And this is just a smattering.  But it's a powerful smattering.  I have a friend who owns an Italian Restaurant and she told me that the weekend after Dr. Oz's show about gluten-intolerance... a dozen people asked if they offered gluten-free pasta.  That's up from just 1 (aka ME).  Truth be told, there is a lot of confusion and misinformation being spewed by some of these professionals, but the conversation is happening.

My point... awareness is building. And people who feel awful for no known reason, want to know... could food be the solution? They are in on the fad.

This fad conversation isn't just about belly aches and weight loss myths. A gluten-free diet seems to be the key to other medical conditions. I'm am very sorry to be anxiously pointing this out to the gluten-free bloggers who I've come to twitter follow and love (some of who have may have even followed me back) but the celiac community DOES NOT own the rights to the gluten-free diet. They had it first. But it is spiraling out of their control - it's growing rapidly - and it's not necessarily catering to them. 

Why...
as I have immersed myself in gluten information over the past few months it has become clear that apparently gluten is a culprit in countless conditions including diabetes, ibs, autism, add, adhd, neurological disorders, psychological disorders, other autoimmune disorders, skin conditions like acne and eczema, migraines... the list goes on and on and on.  People looking for a solution to one of these conditions with a gluten-free diet, they are in on the fad.

I've met (or facebook chatted with) countless moms who are at their wits end trying to solve their child's unsolvable medical mystery - of which there are so many these day it's mind blowing.  They are left with the choice of medicating their children or trying another way. They are in on the fad.

In the 1930s, research showed that gluten was related to schizophrenia.  Today, studies has show that a significant number of schizophrenic patients actually recovered on a gluten-free diet. And yet, how often do you think a gluten-free diet is an attempted course of action for a diagnosed patient?  Gluten has been shown to impact depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and other mental health issues - for both celiac and non-celiac patients - but how often is food considered as a trial treatment before drugs? My husband battled bipolar disorder for years and it wasn't until celiac entered the picture and he went gluten-free that the mania began to dissipate, quickly. People are figuring this out, people who are suffering are giving gluten-free a go in hopes of a stable mind, they are in on the fad.

So what if it's a fad! Many will drop of the gluten-free diet overnight, while others will adopt the lifestyle for real-reasons. I am saddened that some of these people are in the 90% of "undiagnosed-celiacs" but in the long run, if they do gluten free right, then they are on the right track.

But back to my beloved celiac-community... 
It's time to stop fighting the fad, stop fighting the non-celiac invaders on our lifestyle.
G-free might be good for them too.
And good for them that they might not have to worry about cross-contamination.

BUT WE DO.
It is time to START FIGHTING THE FIGHT FOR FOOD MANUFACTURERS and RESTAURANTS to DO GLUTEN-FREE RIGHT!

The demand is skyrocketing and the world of food is answering the call.  Control & Standards are basically non-existent.  Waiting for government regulations on labeling has become ridiculous, and even if they pass, they aren't good enough.

THE TIME IS NOW for the CELIAC COMMUNITY to SET THE STANDARD. DEMAND IT. SCREAM IT. TELL OUR STORIES ABOUT THE INTENSE SUFFERING WE EXPERIENCE when they do gluten-free wrong.

The celiac community might not own the rights to gluten-free but with greatest wisdom and knowledge of the subject, it is our RIGHT AND RESPONSIBILITY to LEAD.

If we don't speak out and force action now, our food will NEVER be safe. 






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