From 1976-1980, I co-owned a health food store (which later changed to a wholesale sprout business until 1991) and became friendly with some of my customers. One of them, Molly Miller, came to me for dietary help for her two sons. They had severe allergies and/or gluten intolerance. She and I spent many afternoons baking without wheat, resulting in items that looked more like doorstops than quick breads. Now, of course, gluten-free products are everywhere, not just health food stores. The products are made from (wild) rice, quinoa, buckwheat (not wheat), amaranth, corn, soy, teff, flax, Montina, millet, and nut flours. (Some people cannot tolerate corn and soy and must also avoid these two foods.)
For those with gluten intolerance, serious health problems can develop from symptoms that are not always readily recognizable, because they may be attributed to some other problem that has similar symptoms. If you suspect gluten intolerance, I recommend you see someone who has dealt with this health issue and can help you determine if you have celiac, also called sprue or celiac-sprue. Gluten-intolerance is the result of an immune-mediated response to the ingestion of gluten (from wheat, rye, and barley)* that damages the small intestines. In some people celiac disease develops and creates ongoing digestive problems as well as other ailments unless treated. It is one of the most under-diagnosed diseases and can lead to malnutrition if not treated.
Fortunately, help is readily available from celiac organizations such as www.celiaccentral.org or www.celiac.org. Just Google gluten intolerance and you will find a great deal of information. Another good source is Gluten Intolerance by Beatrice Trum Hunter, a 26-page publications from Keats Publishing. ($3.95). Also, check out this month’s Profiles. I feature Peggy Wagener, who started her own publication as a result of being diagnosed with celiac disease. The magazine is called Living Without and is filled with helpful information for people with special dietary needs.
*Some sources say wheat, rye, barley as well as oats and triticale (a hybrid of wheat and rye) are also included. If you suspect that you are gluten-intolerant, check with your health practitioner so you can be diagnosed correctly. Some people are only sensitive to wheat, while others have a problems with the full spectrum of gluten containing grains.