Organic Consumers Association

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If I Eat a Gluten-Free Diet, Why Am I Still Having Food Allergy Symptoms?

  For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Genetic Engineering page, Health Issues page, and our Appetite For a Change page.

 You're sick and tired of being sick and tired and bloated and foggy-brained. An allergist or doctor tests you for food allergies and tells you that you should avoid gluten. You've been gluten-free for a while, but you're still experiencing some of the following symptoms:

  • gastrointestinal problems such as diarrhea and cramping 
  • skin breakouts (hives, eczema, swelling) 
  • joint pain or migraine headaches 
  • mood changes 
  • immune disruption

With the explosion in gluten-free offerings, you would think your food allergy symptoms would vanish. Gluten-free product sales in 2011 exceeded $6 billion, almost a 20 percent increase from 2010.

Despite the glut of gluten-free offerings - including gluten-free beer - an increasing number of people still feel bloated. In addition, more people are developing Celiac disease or non-Celiac sensitivity. But why? Here are a few possible reasons:

1. Products labeled gluten-free aren't really gluten-free: Gluten-free labeling - at least in some cases - offers the same dubious promise as "cage-free" or "natural." In an attempt to regulate gluten-free foods in 2007, the Food and Drug Administration proposed to allow manufacturers to label a food "gluten-free" if the food does not contain 20 or more parts-per-million gluten, among other parameters. But if a food contains 19 ppm gluten, it still might trigger an allergy or sensitivity.
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