As I visit many marketplaces selling healthy foods, I am surprised to observe so many signs on food objects saying “gluten-free.”

I can recall as a child when my intake of excessive sweets caused my mom to say, “Stop being a glutton.” Now, “glutton” has nothing to do with “gluten,” because if you have an allergy to gluten, a small amount can cause your intestines to get an attitude, causing bloating, cramping, diarrhea, excessive farting, weight loss and anemia.

Sensitivity to gluten can even prevent babies from thriving. This is one reason why an infant should never start with mixed cereals too early, for they may be allergic to gluten. Rice cereal is a preferred starter.

Gluten can be found in wheat, barley, oats, rye and mixed breakfast cereals, as well as in salad dressings, gravies, meats with fillers (franks), most baked goods, ice cream, candies, beer, ale and pastas.

An intolerance to gluten can be lifelong, and a gluten-free diet is necessary to prevent gastrointestinal symptoms.

The small intestines are lined with finger-like projections called villi, which absorb nutrients as food passes through the gut. If one is allergic to gluten, these small villi become useless, causing intestinal symptoms that can be a lifelong affliction.

A gluten-free diet is the only answer, so beware of foods you are eating that may contain hidden gluten. Gluten allergies affect 1 to 6 of every 10,000 Americans.