Over the past few years “gluten-free” has been appearing on an increasing number of food labels and ‘going gluten-free’ has become a trendy fad. Between the rise in both gluten sensitivity and intolerance diagnoses, and the overall buzz about ‘going gluten-free’, Miami University has had to adjust to fit the needs of its students that lead gluten-free lives.
Gluten is composed of two proteins, gliadin and gluentin, found in grains such as wheat, rye, and barley. These starches are prevalent in the average American’s diet.
These proteins can be difficult to break down and those with gluten sensitivity may experience stomach pains, bloating, heartburn, headaches and symptoms similar to those of the most common gluten intolerance, celiac disease.
According to the National Institutes of Health, celiac disease affects one in every 141 people in the United Sates. When someone with celiac disease consumes gluten, his or her immune system responds by destroying the villi, which are nutrient absorbing bristle-like protrusions that line the wall of the small intestine.
Without the villi, nutrients from food cannot be absorbed into the bloodstream. This causes malnourishment no matter the amount of food the affected person eats. Left untreated, the affected person is in danger of developing other autoimmune disorders and serious health problems.
Sophomore, Katie Wishnew, was diagnosed with celiac disease as a freshman and finds Miami to be very accommodating. She has access to a special dietician on campus who is willing to help.
“I can email her if I want certain products in the McCracken Market, and they’re usually there within a couple of days, which is really nice,” Wishnew said.
She also has contacted managers on campus at Dividends and Armstrong Student Center make sure that no products with gluten touch her food when they make her salads or stir-fry.
Eric Yung, Executive Chef of Student Dining at Miami, outlined the processes students with gluten-free diets can go through to make their dining experience on campus as simple as possible.
“Some students are a little self conscious about standing out, so the way they want to handle things is identifying those items that they can eat at the dining halls ahead of time,” Yung said.
“Students can go online to “My Tray” and look at all of the gluten-free options that are being offered, this is the least intrusive way for students to see the items available.”
Many things are happening behind the scenes in order to prepare gluten free-meals.
“We serve everything on disposables so that they won’t be contaminated by gluten. Students can even walk in and maintain their own cooler are,” Yung said, “All culinary areas have these gluten free areas and in these operations they have a set of pans, tongs, etcetera, that are also cleaned separately and stored only to be used for gluten free diets.”
Yung elaborated on how the university is reacting to what appears to be a growing number of people affected by gluten and the new food stations that will be on Western campus this fall will be especially accommodating.
“This will be great for students because you don’t want to stick out, you want to eat what your friends eat,” Yung said.
Yung also noted, “The products that we are purchasing commercially, even five years ago, that stuff was just as likely to contain ingredients with gluten or soy, but now the industry is changing and this gives us a lot of flexibility.”
Diets have shifted in the past few years, with the latest health craze being the gluten-free diet. However, there is a distinction between those who are gluten-free by choice and those who have gluten intolerance, such as celiac disease. According to Dr. Arthur Agatston, gluten is not as toxic as advertised, and if you are someone who can tolerate gluten or have no sensitivity to gluten, there is no need for you to cut gluten out of your life. Foods with gluten simply add a variety of options and are neither harmful nor vital for excellent health.
However, Culinary Services at the university are adapting and accommodating of students who are affected by gluten and other food allergies.
“As a parent, this makes me feel a whole lot better knowing there are people who are working to make sure all special diets are accommodated for. That’s got to be a huge relief for those students and their families,” Yung said.
Castro, J. (2013, September 17). What is gluten? Retrieved February 19, 2014, from Live Science website: http://www.livescience.com/39726-what-is-gluten.html
Celiac Disease. (2012, January 27). Retrieved February 23, 2014, from National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse website: http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/celiac/
Freuman, T. D. (2012, July 24). What is gluten, anyway? Retrieved February 23, 2014, from What is gluten anyway? website: http://health.usnews.com/health-news/blogs/eat-run/2012/07/24/what-is-gluten-anyway
Written by: Sarah Tyrell