WARWICK business operator Rhonda McCarthy is waging what she calls a "war" on wheat.
The owner of Oh So Natural on Fitzroy St says many Southern Downs residents were living with gluten intolerance problems, most without knowing it.
She said gluten generally was "bad for everybody".
"It irritates the lining of the digestive system - some are affected by it more than others," she said.
"Wheat was introduced into our culture about 1000 years ago and although it sounds like a long time, in evolutionary time it's not.
"Our systems haven't been able to adapt properly to digest wheat.
"A lot of our food is de-natured.
"It has no mineral content because of the processing they do.
"Gluten does not get a chance to be pre-digested, which is what should happen."
The symptoms of gluten intolerance are not uncommon ones, including bloating, gas, discomfort and fatigue.
They vary depending on diet and people's resistance to wheat.
Ms McCarthy herself does not show symptoms when she eats gluten food, but said she chose to be gluten-free regardless.
"I am also dairy free most of the time.
"I still have the stuff, but I do it because I feel my digestive system feels better because of it," she said.
"I haven't been diagnosed with gluten intolerance but we all benefit by not having gluten.
"I've been aware of this for a long time, probably about 15 years."
The health food store, which she has had for about one month, stocks a range of gluten-free products which are all organic as well.
Food choices range from pre-prepared meals such as soups and salads to gluten free cooking items like flour and pasta.
About half of her clientele are repeat customers who are wheat intolerant, and others avoid wheat to feel better or to stick to organic foods.
"A lot come in because this is the only place they can get gluten-free flours and also gluten-free bread," Ms McCarthy said.
"It's been here for six years. There's a big need for it.
"The need for people to exclude all wheat and dairy products because of gluten intolerance is growing enormous.
Ms McCarthy works alongside her "chef extraordinaire" Sue York and staff member Ann Hill.
This week, the trio took time out to enjoy an organic, gluten-free lunch behind the store window.
"We get the best view here - the Funky Fitzroy St passers by are phenomenal," Ms McCarthy said.
"We try and sit down to eat and enjoy each other's company and have a break when we can."
Apart from the healthy element, it smelt good too when the Daily News called in.
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