These days, gluten-free products seem to be everywhere. Major retailers such as Whole Foods and even WalMart are carrying gluten-free bread, cookies, and pasta, while chain restaurants like Outback, Chili’s, and PF Chang’s have added gluten-free options to their menu. Though it might seem like going gluten-free is just the latest fad diet, in fact it is a necessity for the millions of Americans who have gluten intolerance or celiac disease – for which the only treatment is a strict, gluten-free diet.

According to theHuffington Post,experts estimate that as many as 1 in 16 Americans are sensitive to gluten, a protein found in wheat and other grains. For those who have gluten intolerance, consuming gluten can cause symptoms such as constipation, bloating, and diarrhea. Untreated celiac disease can lead to malnutrition, osteoporosis, and other serious health concerns.

The increasing number of people diagnosed with gluten sensitivity or intolerance has been noticed by food manufacturers. As a result, those following a gluten-free diet have a much wider array of foods to choose from than they did just a few years ago. The gluten-free food industry is now worth to $6.3 billion per year and growing.

If you’re in the market for gluten-free foods,Huffington Postreminds you to pay attention to food labels. Some things that contain gluten, such as pasta and bread, are obvious. But gluten is also found in soy sauce, salad dressings, beer, and dozens of other foods. Be vigilant about reading labels, and stay away from ingredients such as wheat, rye, and barley, even if gluten isn’t specifically mentioned. Living with celiac disease or other forms of gluten sensitivity is not easy, but thanks to the growing gluten-free food market, it can be manageable.

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