Here in Chicago (er, everywhere), you’ve probably noticed the recent explosion of gluten free products lining the shelves of all the popular eateries, as well as your favorite health-minded grocery stores like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. Even your gal pal may be passing on the beer since she is “going gluten free.” By now you’ve probably stopped and thought to yourself, “What is gluten? Should my diet be free of it, as well?”

Gluten is a protein found in specific grains such as wheat, barley, and rye that helps give foods (think: good ol’ deep dish pizza) its chewiness. It’s found in foods where grains are the clear main ingredient, but also less obviously in items like beer and even many soy sauces. Those diagnosed with Celiac Disease cannot digest the gluten protein properly, and therefore physically cannot tolerate anything with gluten. It can be found in individuals of all ages and backgrounds, and is formally diagnosed through medical tests. The disease is getting diagnosed in the population more frequently than before, thus the recent boom in gluten free products!

This being said, gluten-tolerant folks are still opting to nix the gluten and follow a gluten free diet as there are claims that it can promote better heath. For those who follow this diet voluntarily, the term “health” holds different meanings per individual, and the effects of the diet vary. To some, the act of having to read ingredients and being aware of what is going into the body is enough to promote a better overall change in lifestyle. Others may appreciate the effects of consuming gluten-free flours, such as tapioca, rice, and garbanzo, instead. It opens up a new food repertoire and others may find themselves eating lighter and feeling lighter with a change of grain.

So, is this gluten-free-for-the-gluten-tolerant lifestyle just a fad? For some, it may be. For others, it promotes a lifestyle that is much more body aware – a way to connect the mind-body outside of the studio, if you will! And that is never a bad thing.

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