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It’s Gluten Free owners Jackie and Mike Borges stock the shelves of their Turlock store. The couple opened the store after Jackie was diagnosed with celiac disease and was having trouble finding gl...

ALEX CANTATORE / 209 Health & Wellness/

POSTED December 19, 2012 5:34 p.m.

It’s a gluten, gluten, gluten world in the aisles of supermarkets and restaurant menus. Or so it must seem to the millions of Americans who experience some form of gluten reaction.

Gluten sensitivity is a relatively new term being used in the medical field and can incorporate a whole spectrum of problems, from celiac disease to wheat allergies. The University of Maryland Center for Celiac Research estimates there are 18 million Americans that have some form of gluten reaction.

Gluten is protein found in wheat, rye and barley. It’s present in many foods, especially breads and pasta, but is also found in beer, salad dressings, cold cuts and licorice.

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease in which the body does not react well with gluten. People who have celiac disease and eat gluten experience malnutrition, weight loss, and the lining of the small intestine becomes inflamed or damaged. Other symptoms include diarrhea, abdominal pain, poor calcium absorption, which can cause joint pain, headaches and fatigue.

People who are gluten sensitive can have many of the same symptoms as celiac disease, except for the damage done to the small intestine.

A blood test and a biopsy can diagnose celiac disease, but not gluten sensitivity. For that doctors have to rely more on a patient’s history and experiences when ingesting gluten. It’s critical that people get tested for celiac disease before starting a gluten-free diet, because it can present a false negative.

The number of celiac disease cases has doubled over the last two decades and medical researchers believe it could be caused from an overuse of hygienic products. If children aren’t exposed to antigens while their immune system is developing, then the immune system doesn’t learn to tolerate gluten, according to medical researchers from the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center.

People with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity are finding new options as more and more products are offering gluten free versions. Locally, Turlock is home to the It’s Gluten Free store, which offers a wide variety of gluten free and organic products. Owners Jackie and Mike Borges opened the store after Jackie was diagnosed with celiac disease and was having trouble finding gluten free products.

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