The Gluten Free Fad
- By Angela Strand
- Published 06/22/2012
I am 25 years old and living in St. Louis, MO. I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease 5 years ago, and have subsequently been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and chronic pancreatitis. Due to my health issues I have become disabled, so I use my time to reach out to others. I have been writing my own blog since February 2012 (http://theceliaclady.blogspot.com/) and am looking for more ways to reach out. I also enjoy trying and writing about restaurants with new gluten free menus in St. Louis.
I have noticed within the last year or two that the gluten free diet is becoming more and more popular among non-Celiacs. It’s been on the news, celebrities are talking about it, and major restaurant chains are advertising new gluten free options. However, I have really started to doubt the sincerity of some that are embarking on a gluten free diet.
I am not trying to discourage anyone from trying a gluten free diet. In fact, the more people that go gluten free the easier and cheaper my food options become. However, I have come to the realization that going gluten free has become a fad. A fad like those awesome stripped toe socks I wore in high school with my flip flops and tennis skirt! Gluten free being a fad is not only extremely irritating but can potentially make all the progress we have made in more widely available food options obsolete. Call me paranoid but I have nightmares that the "ease" (I use that term quite loosely) of attaining gluten free foods will cease to exist and we'll be thrust back into a world of eating cardboard and plywood!
As the saying goes "just because you're paranoid, doesn't mean someone isn't out to get you!" There are a number of examples of fad diets and even allergies that have lost their "popularity" and faded from our minds. A few years ago you couldn’t find a peanut on an airplane and the "South Beach Diet" stamp was on foods up and down the grocery aisle. It's just in the last year or so that people have started giving up on their "no high fructose corn syrup" diets. Everything from vegan-ism to the Atkin's diet eventually fades from the mainstream leaving behind the few faithful followers. If gluten free diets are in fact becoming a fad, it will leave patients with Celiac Disease as the final faithful followers. It will be like going back to technology that was popular in the early 90's.
The only idea I have to counteract this potential assault on how "easy" (again, using the term very loosely) my diet has become is to educate as many people as I can about the diet. So much so that I am starting to sound like a broken record standing on a soap box. I think all gluten free dieters, at least the serious ones, need to band together to make sure we aren't taking one step forward before we take three steps back. You can do this by doing things, like calling Lays and informing them that your (or my) favorite barbeque potato chips are now off limits because they changed their recipe to add barley malt, or supporting company's that change a simple ingredient so a product is gluten free, like Chex cereals. We are the consumers and if we raise enough of a commotion companies will listen. After all, they are in the business of making money! Another important step is discussing with stores about stocking more gluten free options. If you're willing to buy it, most places will try to sell it to you.
Going beyond contacting retailers and manufacturers, educating the public who fall for fad diets is also really important. I don't know how many times people have said to me "hey, I was thinking about trying a gluten free diet." I can't help but think that 99% of the time they are not serious, simply jumping on the rice cracker and tapioca starched bandwagon. There appears to be this vast misconception that cutting gluten from your diet it like cutting fat, calories, sugar, high fructose corn syrup, caffeine, fast food, carbohydrates, and dog food. Okay, maybe not so much the dog food! Still, I cannot stress it enough GLUTEN FREE IS NOT A DIET IT'S A LIFESTYLE!!!
Two of my favorite books regarding Celiac and gluten free diets are Living Gluten Free for Dummies by Danna Korn and Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis. They both address various medical conditions that can, and have been treated by going on a full gluten free diet. Everything from autism, diabetes, heart disease and rheumatoid arthritis. In some cases, patients not only lost tens to hundreds of pounds, but showed an incredible amount of improvement in their overall health by being able to stop taking certain medications. In rare cases, a few people have even been essentially cured of their ailment. The key to the success, as pointed out by both authors, is a complete dedication to going gluten free. That doesn't mean cutting back on how much Wonder Bread and Twinkies you eat, it's a full commitment. All or nothing.
For some reason, that is the key that seems to be missed by most people without a direct medical problem requiring a gluten free diet. They seem to think they can cut out half of the gluten in their diet, or not eat gluten on Thursdays and Sundays between 12:00 am and 3:57 pm. I like to look at it this way: if something is poisoning your body, if it is preventing your body from functioning properly and causing you pain, weight gain, and a host of other problems, then don't you want to give it completely up? You wouldn't realize you're stomach problems and hair loss are from the arsenic in your morning coffee and keep putting it in the coffee. And if something is poisoning your body, how will you truly know without removing it from the diet? Unfortunately, today's medical technology does not allow testing for a gluten sensitivity or intolerance, it is done largely by trial and error. You cannot do trial and error if you don't do a proper trial!
I realize that there is a lot of hesitation in embarking on a gluten free lifestyle. When I began mine, I had little cartoon pizzas and doughnuts circling the top of my head. It's a momentous undertaking and gluten items will pop out at you at every corner disguised as over the counter medications and chicken gravy. But embarking on such a lifestyle cannot only change your life, but prolong it! You can feel better, have more energy and be more active all by cutting out that pesky little protein. If you are faithful and diligent on a gluten free diet and still feel tired, or have high blood sugar, or are struggling with weight loss and you want your fried chicken and artificial bacon bits back I won't stand in your way. But like the cliché says if something is worth doing, it's worth doing right.
Perhaps I shouldn't take the gluten free fad as an insult, but I do. I see it as making a mockery of my lifestyle. I would still encourage anyone who wants to see if it will help them to give it a try. But if you're going to do it, do it right!
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