University gluten-free movement gaining ground

Gluten intolerance is a condition that dramatically affects millions of Americans.

Hadley Gustin

According to Whole Foods Market, âÄúceliac disease, also known as coeliac disease, gluten-sensitive enteropathy, non-tropical sprue, celiac sprue and gluten intolerant enteropathy, is a chronic digestive disorder found in individuals who experience a toxic immune response when they ingest gluten.âÄù The National Institute of Health reported that over 3 million Americans have been diagnosed with celiac disease; compared to the whole of the U.S. population, 303,824,640 people, the percentage of gluten-intolerant persons in this country is only about 1 percent. Nevertheless, because most gluten-sensitive enteropathy cases go undiagnosed, the total number of Americans with this disease is significantly higher. This being the case, why arenâÄôt more grocery stores and restaurants adjusting to meet the needs of their gluten-intolerant customers? Aside from the relatively small number of people with celiac disease, the major reason for the lack of gluten-free accommodations in the United States is in large part due to the fact that âÄúup until 10 years ago, medical schools taught that celiac disease was relatively rare and only affected about one in 2,500 people,âÄù says San Francisco-based freelance writer, Jefferson Adams. Because the health care industry only recently changed its outlook on and promotion of non-tropical sprue as a more common and prevalent disorder, the rest of the nation still remains largely ignorant about this illness. Gluten intolerance is more prevalent in the United States than epilepsy, multiple sclerosis or cystic fibrosis. Even with these publicized facts and figures, the nationâÄôs response to the gluten-free movement continues to lag. Particularly in those first few years of college when many students find themselves living and dining in dormitories, having a gluten-free menu for those who need it is critical. Unlike the vegan and vegetarian options available, which are lifestyle accommodations, gluten-free alternatives are essentially nonexistent. At the University of Minnesota, however, the gluten-free movement is gaining ground, working to promote awareness about celiac disease and wheat intolerance in order to make necessary changes to the UniversityâÄôs food selection. A couple of months ago, sophomore Bethany Fosler started the UniversityâÄôs first gluten-free club. Motivated by her lifelong struggle with gluten sensitivity, technically referred to as non-celiac gluten sensitive disorder and affecting nearly one in seven Americans, Fosler decided to actively challenge the UniversityâÄôs lack of support toward a gluten-free diet. In this past week, she constructed a proposal for âÄúthe University of Minnesota [to] implement gluten-free meal options and products within its Residential Dining Services and the Minnesota Marketplace located in Coffman Union.âÄù Popular gluten-free meals to consider include barbecue pork, spinach and strawberry salad and applesauce. Luckily, Fosler had multiple cases of universities instating gluten-free meal choices to sustain her argument. She asserts in her proposal that âÄúIthaca College, University of Notre Dame, University of Kansas, Tufts University and St. JohnâÄôs University provide basic gluten-free essentials for their students with wheat allergies.âÄù Therefore, the precedent has already been set for other schools to incorporate gluten-free foods into their meal plans. This potential expansion of dining options is not solely for the benefit of wheat-intolerant students, though. On the contrary, everyone can benefit from the consumption of gluten-free products. Board certified holistic health counselor and WomenâÄôs LifeStyle Magazine/Oakland columnist Cheryl Heppard states, âÄúMany people find that weight loss programs are much more effective once gluten is eliminated from the diet. [Plus], sticking to a diet of whole, fresh, unprocessed foods eliminates any worry about confusing and hidden ingredients and offers a healthy way of life.âÄù With dire health concerns in America such as obesity and general nutrition, embracing aspects of the gluten-free lifestyle would certainly benefit the overall wellness of individuals and transform the future of the American diet. ABCâÄôs new acclaimed reality show âÄúJamie OliverâÄôs Food RevolutionâÄù is a mainstream and far-reaching medium for the public to invest in healthier food products. One of OliverâÄôs techniques in adding nutritional value to his cooking is the utilization of gluten-free ingredients. For instance, in his cookbook âÄúJamieâÄôs Ministry of FoodâÄù 60 of a total 108 recipes are entirely gluten-free, and all the rest can be made sans gluten with easy substitutes. There is no question that maintaining a diet free of gluten is substantial work. Nevertheless, for one-seventh of the student body, it is an obligation. And for everyone else, eating gluten-free food is an additional health advantage. Thus, in order to foster a campus environment that is encouraging of its gluten-intolerant students and the common wellness of its academic community, the University must broaden its dining menu to more fully encompass the needs of all who are enrolled. For those seeking supplementary support and guidance on living gluten-free, joining the Gluten Free Club is a great solution. President Bethany Fosler welcomes all who are interested to attend the clubâÄôs next meeting at 3:15 p.m. April 9 (location TBA). She can be contacted at [email protected] for further information. Hadley Gustin welcomes comments at [email protected]