By Eileen Johnson

With gluten sensitivity (celiac disease), the structure of the intestinal wall deteriorates and absorption of nutrients from the food that is eaten is compromised. Very common signs of this disease include chronic diarrhea, failure to gain weight in children or weight loss as an adult, anemia and a skin rash. Other than celiac, people may also experience gluten intolerance, in which any of the possible signs of food intolerance might appear. These include more vague symptoms like fatigue, muscle or joint pain, digestive discomfort or depression.

How often do we struggle against something new, only to find great joy and relief when we make a needed change in our lives? This may be true when making the change to a gluten free diet. For those who are sensitive to gluten, the process can be confusing and difficult, but the end result can be a lifetime of more energy, a healthier digestive system and feeling profoundly better in many ways.

Here are some tips for making the gluten free transition a little easier at Valley Natural Foods:

  • Red, gluten free tags on the shelved items in the store now point out gluten-free items. It is important to know that there may be gluten free items that are not marked as such. For your safety, we follow company claims on packaging. Call the company if their product appears to have gluten-free ingredients but is not marked as such.
  • Many companies are clearly labeling their products “gluten-free,” making it easy to pick out as suitable. No clear laws presently exist that define “gluten free” but the FDA has proposed guidelines. They are carrying out a study this summer to see if proposed gluten free labeling is clear and appropriate. Check or for the latest update.
  • Shop the perimeter of the store to find foods that are easily seen as gluten-free. Fresh fruits and vegetables; unprocessed meats; raw nuts; dried beans, and gluten-free grains like rice, quinoa and millet.
  • The Wellness Department is labeling gluten-free supplements, and beginning to compile information on gluten free cosmetics.
  • Gluten-free “hot spots” in the store.
    • Freezer case of gluten-free bread products like breads, tortillas, bagels and muffins sits across from the alternative dairy case just beyond the demo kiosk.
    • Aisle 5 contains fantastic baking mixes and gluten-free packaged treats and cookies.
    • The gluten-free bakery case near the salad bar contains an assortment of yummy breads, cookies and cakes. Ask the bakery ahead of time to make a gluten free cake for any occasion.

Some helpful websites:


Educational books available:

Gluten Free Gourmet baking recipe books by Bette Hagman

Easy Bread Baking for Special Diets by Nicolette M. Dumke

Gluten-free 101 by Carol Fenster, PhD

Wheat-Free, Gluten-Free cookbook for Kids and Busy Adults

Special Diets for Special Kids by Lisa Lewis, PhD


Despite all the above, shopping gluten-free can be overwhelming. Many staff members are familiar with the gluten-free diet and would be happy to point out gluten free items. Make a free appointment at customer service to meet with the staff RN.


The American Celiac Disease Alliance

Celiac Disease Foundation

National Foundation for Celiac Awareness

The University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center

A note on Cross contamination: This term refers to a food being inadvertently contaminated with food proteins other than those listed on the food label while it is being processed, packaged or stored. This is of particular concern to anyone with food allergies.

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