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Your Health Matters

Gluten-Free Labeling

September 9, 2013 6:00am (EDT)
Courtesy, <a href="http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AT1larg.gluten.foods.gi.jpg" target="_blank">Wikimedia</a>
Courtesy, Wikimedia

Going gluten free? New FDA labeling standards could make it easier for you to identify products that fit your diet.

The new standards say only foods containing less than 20 parts per million of gluten can be labeled “gluten-free”. The same restrictive standard applies to foods labeled “no gluten”, “free of gluten”, and “without gluten”.

There’s more good news: If you have to travel abroad to Europe or Canada, relax.. Their standards are the same.

The standards won’t go into effect immediately. The FDA has given food manufacturers up to one year to comply. But they say most foods now labeled gluten free are just that, and are already in compliance.

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. It can also be added to foods. People who have a condition called celiac disease can not tolerate gluten. One in 100 people in western countries have celiac disease. It is more common in women than in men. When they eat gluten, their immune system overreacts causing damage to the lining of the intestine. Symptoms include diarrhea, constipation, fatigue, abdominal pain, bloating, and gas. This dmamge to the intestinal lining can also interfere with absorption of nutrients form foods. Left untreated, celiac disease can also cause liver inflammation , iron deficiency anemia, anemia, low bone density, and even cancer.

Celiac antibodies (resulting from the body’s immune system reacting to gluten) can often be found in the blood of those affected. A biopsy of the intestinal lining is often done to confirm the diagnosis.

The treatment sounds easy: avoid gluten, but it's not always so simple. These new FDA standards should help make compliance to a gluten free diet for those with celiac disease easier to digest and achieve.

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