This article originally appeared in the Spring 2012 issue of Journal of Gluten Sensitivity.

Celiac.com 04/16/2014 - I am writing this because I just attended my first brown bag lunch session at Palomar Medical Center  (PMC) and was nearly black balled for my audacity to speak out against what the lecturing registered dietitian said when she made the statement “ a gluten-free diet (GFD) is a fad diet that will cause harm by depriving the body of needed vitamins and minerals” and that “no one should follow this diet unless they have been formally diagnosed with celiac disease”.  I want to demonstrate that a GFD is not harmful in any way and that it may be a superior diet for many people, even those who have not been “diagnosed” with celiac disease.

Photo: CC--Tony FischerI was attending the lecture because I have been dismayed by the nutritional information being sent to employees via e-mail at PMC. I am passionate about health and nutrition and thought that by attending I would be able to voice my opinions and create a dialog so everyone would become more knowledgeable about food and  possibly improve the quality and content of future information about nutrition.  What I got was not what I expected. My opinions were not wanted and I was immediately told that the 30 minute lecture did not allow time for my questions and objections. I have a Bachelor of Science in nursing and it was the first time in my life I have ever felt like the “teacher” was the only authority on the subject and there was no room for discussion.  Two women from the front of Grey Bill auditorium told me in no uncertain terms to shut up and that I would be dealt with later.     

The topic March 30, 2011 was on “Fad Diets” and though she did not discuss any fad diets in depth, the registered dietitian did, at the outset, make the statement as outlined above.  I immediately pointed out that there are many whole grain products someone on a GFD may consume which would provide nutrients similar to those found in wheat.  But the speaker insisted that people fallowing a GFD would likely not know about other grains and thus would be lacking B-complex vitamins and minerals such as zinc, iron and copper.

A gluten-free diet in no way short changes you of these vital nutrients and it should not be assumed this hospital’s employees are too ignorant to be aware of the various gluten-free grains that are available. Certainly, inaccurate information should not be presented in  an arena where people are gathering to learn about their health and where that misinformation may be passed on to patients  and their families.  I have heard that registered dietitians and the food industry are a little too closely linked and now I  have now experienced it first hand.

The food industry has, for years, been altering the foods we eat to make them look or taste better. They have been changing textures and adding colors with their armory of food additives.  Now, however, there is mounting evidence that this manipulation of food and it’s over abundance in the standard American diet (commonly labeled SAD ) has taken its toll on our health.  Food industries are out to make a profit, but do we have to help them by misleading our employees about food?  Gluten is, after all, not only present in grain products where you would expect it, as the primary protein in wheat, but in nearly all processed foods contain gluten - otherwise known as vegetable protein, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, hydrolyzed plant protein, malt, malt flavorings and  vegetable gum (to name just a few of its many aliases).  Gluten is used in seasonings, condiments, processed meats, commercial soups, broths, ice cream  and nearly all packaged foods found at your typical super-market.  Thus, giving up gluten is giving up highly processed foods. In other words, a gluten-free diet is based primarily on whole foods.  Furthermore, gluten-free grains such as amaranth, quinoa and wild rice, among many others, are  far superior to wheat in their vitamin and mineral content. Hence my inability to sit quietly and listen to the misinformation that was being presented.

Finally, I tried to point out that getting a celiac diagnosis from a western trained  physician is not easy.  There are far too many ailments that, while caused by gluten intolerance , are diagnosed as a host of other illnesses.  So many conditions, in fact, that it would be impractical to list them all, but here are just a few: colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, diarrhea, flatulence, mouth ulcers, abdominal pain, anemia, ataxia, epilepsy, fatigue, depression, arthritis, autism, autoimmune disorders, ear infections, eczema, headaches, heartburn, irritability, neurological disorders, psychiatric disorders, hypoglycemia, diabetes, migraines, osteoporosis, sinus problems.... the list goes on and on. What doctor is going to order an intestinal biopsy when you are reporting symptoms of depression?

It usually takes between seven and ten years of suffering with a multitude of symptoms before a diagnosis of celiac disease is made and it is estimated that 1% of the population suffers from celiac disease but most remain undiagnosed. Therefore, it would be wise to remove gluten from your diet if you are experiencing unexplained symptoms and you wish to find a cure instead of simply covering up the symptoms with the various pharmaceuticals western trained physicians will prescribe for you.  Even if celiac disease is not the cause, you may benefit from the healthier lifestyle offered by a whole foods diet free of artificial food additives.

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