• By: Marie Waine

Flour Faux-pas! May is Celiac Awareness Month

Image Courtesy of Udi’s Gluten Free

Two-thirds of Canadians believe going gluten free is more than just another food frenzy, according to a new Canadians Attitudes to Gluten Free survey by Udi’s Healthy Foods. The study comes out just in time for Celiac Awareness Month this May.

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease where the body reacts negatively to a substance called gluten. Gluten is found in wheat, barley and rye. For those living with the disease, gluten is poisonous and causes damage in the small intestine.

“Gluten is dire for those diagnosed celiac but for countless others, reducing or eliminating gluten is making them feel better about their health,” says Kathy Smart, an award-winning health expert, cookbook author and diagnosed celiac.

The problematic protein can also cause reactions in people without celiac, including fatigue, joint pain, headaches, and gastrointestinal problems. The Udi’s survey reveals Canadians are also eliminating gluten from their diet for health related reasons, to feel better, accommodate intolerances and to support friends and family.

In fact, 12 per cent of Canadians lead a gluten free lifestyle while 27 per cent have a connection through either friends or family, according to the survey.

With the numbers of people going gluten free on the rise, Celiac Awareness Month aims to increase public knowledge of celiac and other related intolerances. But there is much work to do.

“So many Canadians have been ‘touched’ by gluten free, whether through their own lifestyle, or the choices of friends and family,” says Smart. “But despite the popularity of gluten free, more education is needed to help people understand the many sources of gluten in their daily food options and the variety of tasty alternatives available to them.”

Gluten can be found in a variety of daily foods, which makes it tricky to avoid. Products such as pastas, baked goods and beer are obvious while malt vinegar and soy sauce may not be considered right away.

Nearly two-thirds of Canadians are not confident identifying which foods contain gluten and which do not, according to Udi’s survey. This includes nearly 25 per cent who do not realize gluten is often found in a favourite baked good – bread.

Finding gluten free alternatives to these food favourites is a must. As gluten free living becomes less of a trend and more of a lifestyle, families eating gluten free report an increasing availability of alternative products, which include tastier choices. Brands such as Udi’s, Kinnikinnick and Glutino provide many options and are widely available.

Eliminating gluten from a diet can be life changing in more ways than what ends up on the dinner plate. Improved weight, physical fitness, activity level and more time spent with their families are also reported benefits.

To learn more about Celiac Awareness Month and the benefits of going gluten free, check out the Canadian Celiac Association.