Not Just a Lifestyle
Being gluten-free emerged as a trendy diet and lifestyle in the past decade; celebrities and influencers on social media, including the Reality TV star Kourtney Kardashian, adopted the diet as a healthy living and weight loss hack, launching a trend. However, the history of the gluten-free diet is a bit more complex than it appears. People all over the world have been struggling with Celiac Disease (CD), a gluten allergy, for centuries, and it was only after World War II that scientist Willem-Karel Dicke finally found that the protein gluten was responsible for some people’s intolerance towards grains and cereals. Thus, the gluten-free diet began.
The first gluten-free products to enter the market were largely found in Italy and Germany and sold mainly in pharmacies. It wasn’t until the mid 1990s that more brands started producing gluten-free products, giving people with CD and gluten intolerance a wider variety of foods to eat. The technology for these new products was still far from being mastered to create good and authentic tasting foods, as companies gathered that the target market for gluten-free food was relatively small (a total of about 8% of the American population either had CD or a gluten intolerance) and there was little competition. As a result, people with CD still faced a life-changing and uncomfortable diet that was only revolutionized in the early 2010s. 
As competition grew in the gluten-free market, new and better tasting products not only allowed those suffering from gluten intolerances to live a more normal life, but it also attracted people not suffering from CD to try the new diet to eat healthier. The rise of the internet and social media greatly contributed to the expanse of the gluten-free consumer base as it helped to spread the news that adopting a gluten-free lifestyle results in reduced susceptibility to certain health risks, such as cardiovascular diseases, and could also lead to weight-loss. Today, all types of social media influencers, from fitness accounts to celebrities, advocate the gluten-free diet and have created a trend that has increased the target market to about 26-30% of the American population.
Though the spread of awareness of the gluten-free diet has had many positive results–the growth of choice and variety in gluten-free food products sold in supermarkets and served in restaurants, the establishment of gluten-free restaurants and bakeries, and a better understanding of CD through its increased study–it has also had some stagnant and somewhat disappointing results on the personal lives of people with real gluten intolerances. The uncertainty around gluten sensitivity or intolerance in the general population has led to a certain distaste for those following the gluten-free diet. Blogger Missy Crystal wrote an article in 2020 titled “Gluten-Free People Are Sick of Hearing These 21 Comments” in response to some of the feedback she and others have received about their diet concerns. Insensitive comments such as, “it’s all in your head,” “oh, you’re one of those people,” or “why do you believe everything you read on the Internet?” are hurtful either way, but especially to people with CD who know that eating gluten is potentially life-threatening for them, or at the very least will have negative health effects on their body.
Going out to eat with family or friends still seems an unsure activity, as is shown by a study in 2013 which found that there was only about a 40% understanding and recognition of CD and gluten-free products among chefs in the UK. Most gluten-free products are cooked-at-home products, resulting in difficulties for wholesale acquisition and developing freshly made recipes by restaurants. This uncertainty can cause anxiety to those with CD and gluten intolerance as eating gluten can lead them to have extremely uncomfortable side effects or even dire medical situations.
Traveling abroad gives similar anxieties, as certain cuisines have more affinities for gluten in their cooking and the level of awareness for CD is different in every country. Extensive amounts of research go into planning a trip abroad as is, but it becomes even more important for those with gluten intolerances to understand in which countries it will be easier to adhere to their strict gluten-free diet. Travel blogger Becca Siegel recently wrote a post on the 10 best and worst countries for people suffering from CD to travel to based on food accommodations; she found that there is no clear rule on which cuisines or areas of the world are safest. For example, Mexico and Colombia had lots of gluten-free options, as much of their carbohydrates are made from corn-based flour rather than wheat-based. On the other hand, in Bolivian and Argentinian food, it was not as easy to steer clear of gluten. These examples are just to show that traveling with CD is a more complicated affair and often, the choice of where to go is more limited than for those without CD.
Though one would expect Italy to be a big taboo for those traveling with CD, being the home of all things carbohydrates–pizza, pasta, and bread–Italy has actually been a trailblazer in gluten-free technology and discovery due to the common use of gluten in their cooking. As mentioned earlier, Italy was one of the biggest importers and producers of gluten-free products when they came out in the 1980s and, today, Italy exports around 1.83 million tons of gluten-free pasta around the world. Italy has nearly 4,000 gluten-free restaurants approved by the Italian Celiac Association, and Italians diagnosed with CD receive vouchers from the government of up to 140 Euros per month to buy gluten-free products and public institutions, such as schools and hospitals, are also required to provide gluten-free options.
With all the difficulties this market still faces, Caremoli Gluten Free is devoted to advancing production strategies, technologies, and recipes to best accommodate the needs of people with CD, gluten intolerances, and those who choose to take the gluten-free path for other reasons. Our research and trials on which types of alternative flours and what kind of ingredients create the best tasting gluten-free products has led us to be able to produce an array of different foods that taste and feel just as authentic as their gluten alternatives. We are proud to have joined the fight against CD and to have contributed to the market with Gluten-Free Certified (in EU and USA) and certain Certified Halal, Kosher, and non-GMO products for our gluten-free lovers.
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