What is gluten?

In simple terms, gluten is a natural protein component found in wheat, rye and barley. Gluten is useful in holding in the gas bubbles that help dough or batter rise, giving finished baked goods structure.

Why gluten-free?

Celiac is an autoimmune disorder that damages part of the small intestine and makes it nearly impossible for the body to absorb nutrients into the bloodstream. This can cause malnourishment and lead to cancer, osteoporosis, infertility, diabetes and a host of other autoimmune diseases.

According to the Ambler-based National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, one in 133 Americans has celiac. The only known way to treat the disease is to adhere to a strictly gluten-free diet.

Could I have celiac disease?

Symptoms of celiac disease vary, but the NFCA Web site lists the most common as bloating, gas, diarrhea, constipation, fatigue, an itchy skin rash, tingling and numbness, joint pain, delayed growth, thin bones, infertility, headaches, depression and irritability. In rare cases, some people may show no symptoms of celiac.

Learn more at the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness Web site, www.celiaccentral.org.