GROTON -- Taught by Eric Reardon, a recent forum provided information to an audience comprised of many who had recently discovered that by removing gluten from their diets, they had healed a host of medical problems that had plagued them for years.

Reardon is a certified clinical nutritionist with a master's degree in health and physical education. He completed his holistic and nutritional training and has had extensive functional medical training with Dr. Daniel Kalish. He has over a decade of experience working with all kinds of patients and clients.

Here are some of the key points discussed in the 90-minute session, which ended with tastings of many gluten-free products:

Gluten protein can provoke an immune response that inflames the small intestine and is responsible for celiac disease and other autoimmune conditions. In addition to full-blown celiac disease, it can cause an allergic response from mild sensitivities to severe reactions. Gluten is found in many grains, including wheat, oats, rye, barley, spelt, kamut, bulgur, semolina and others like couscous. Gluten can be found in almost every food and is often labeled as modified food starch.

Because of the hybridization of wheat, many different strains of wheat are planted and harvested, and by 1980, thousands of new strains of wheat had been produced. These new varieties were geared toward making the plant more resistant to environmental conditions, pathogens such as fungus, and increasing its yield. This "Frankenstein" creation of continued manipulation produced smaller plants considered "dwarf wheat" with more than 99 percent of wheat crops now dwarfed and growing to only 18 inches tall. (Nonhybridized wheat grows naturally to 4 and a half feet in height.)

Wheat has been so genetically modified, it bears no resemblance to the wheat our parents and grandparents ate and today's wheat contains much more gluten.

New, never-before-seen gluten proteins are now being discovered, which are foreign to the body. Some estimates suggest that the hybridization and genetic engineering of wheat has resulted in one in three people developing gluten sensitivity. Today, there is a 400 percent increase in full-blown celiac disease over what existed 50 years ago.

Dr. Frank Lipman, an internationally recognized expert in the field of integrative medicine and author of "Be Well," writes about gluten. Many of his patients complain about a "vague feeling of unwellness." He describes gluten sensitivity as an ... "immune reaction with inflammations that produces a slow wearing down of one's system." This inflammation negatively affects the brain, the heart, joints, the digestive tract and the skin.

Manifestations of this inflammation, he writes, can be the root cause of depression, ADD/ADHD, anxiety, panic attacks, migraines, poor comprehension, dizziness, stuffy nose, watery eyes, earache, hearing loss, sore throat and even a hoarse, weak voice. It can be responsible for nausea, diarrhea, constipation, IBS, bloating, gas, abdominal pain and ulcers.

The New England Journal of Medicine listed 55 "diseases" that can be caused by eating gluten.

Celiac disease appears in blood tests but gluten sensitivities do not. The best way to see if health-related problems stem from gluten sensitivity is to remove gluten from the diet and note the improvements.

Gluten sensitivity can also result in leaky gut syndrome, a condition that allows large undigested toxins, compounds, bacteria and undigested proteins to be absorbed. This produces an inflammatory response and is associated with inflammatory bowel disease, arthritis, psoriasis, liver disease and much more.

The Natural Market has a wide selection of gluten-free products at 148 Main St., Groton, 978-448-5075, thenaturalmarket.com.

Eric Reardon MS, CNC can be reached at 978-551-1321 or crossroadstohealth.com.