Health restrictions create helpful diet

  • Kristen Kenney
  • Thu Aug 15th 2013

Pam MacDonald has been living a life without gluten since 1997, and not by choice.

"It was either that or get sick."

She is one of 3 million Americans who suffers from celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder that causes damage to the intestine when gluten such as wheat rye or barley is consumed.

"I couldn't have a carb unless it was rice or corn. It changes your whole life. 20 years without a pizza, come on," Pam says.

Frustrated with the lack of food options Pam did something about it and opened Pam McDs just two years ago in Burbank California, a one stop shop for the gluten-free community.

"We have more than 7 freezers of options, the largest in this region."

The gluten free movement is quickly growing from shelves to menus. So I hit the streets of LA to find some. Restaraunts chains across the country are jumping on board. I hear Chuck E Cheese has gluten-free options, and I'm craving a pizza. So this is what you get. A pizza in a separate, self-contained package. This is important because it prevents cross contamination. The smallest amount can send someone straight to the hospital.

Marilyn Geller, CEO of the Celiac Disease Foundation has firsthand experience. Her son Henry was diagnosed with celiac disease in 9th grade.

"He was miserable and it went on for years, but once he eliminated gluten from his diet he became a happy, healthy individual."

A growing number of Americans are shunning gluten - believing it will make them happier, healthier or skinnier, but that may not be the case.

"It's not a fad. It's not a trend. A cookie is a cookie is a cookie."

"We need to make people aware that this is not a fad diet. I tell people this will make my son very ill for three days with symptoms like food poisoning."

The Food and Drug Administration has taken a step in the right direction, helping those like Pam and the Gellers by calling for gluten-free labeling standards. Manufacturers have until Aug. 2014 to comply.

"It's a tremendous milestone. When we went to a restaurant before and asked the ingredients we were an annoyance. Now, especially in LA, most servers have heard of the word. So now you feel safe and you don't need to read the tiny print to determine if there is gluten hidden in the product."

It's safe to say the gluten-free way is more than just a trend.

"It's not going anywhere. It's here to stay."

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