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  • Cindy Fuchser
    Cindy Fuchser

    A Gluten-free Diet is Not Just Another Fad Diet!

    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

      Journal of Gluten Sensitivity Spring 2012 Issue

    Caption: Photo: CC--Tony Fischer

    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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    As a celiac and a patient, I feel the hospitals have left out of patient care nutrition. When I was in for surgery, the dietitian said they could not provide any gluten-free or dairy free food for me to eat! I had to have my family bring in my meals. Years ago, when I worked at a hospital, the food was prepared fresh, not shipped in like it is now. This is not a fad! I almost died from eating gluten in the hospital! They couldn't figure it out until I asked if the bread they served me was gluten-free! I got an oops, sorry. I told them it was not an oops, it was life and death!

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    I thank you for this article. And, yes, outraged! I'm so tired of people believing this is a fad, not for me! I'm not a celiac, but my sister was born with it. I, however, medically needed to be gluten free. I end up in the emergency room with severe cramping if I eat gluten these days. Tell that dietician I'll come to her hospital emergency room next time. Within hours I develop Irritable Bowel Symtom pain which lasts hours and is agony, AGONY, the entire time.

    I became gluten free in 2010 after friends suggestion to research this because of my celiac sister. Financially I had to let go of the psychiatric meds I'd been taking for 12 years for panic/anxiety. I went off the medication easily with no panic/anxiety in the 4 years since; after a life time of that condition as well as IBS. I'm also finally 'regular' (eh hem) for the first time in my life, less irritable & moody, my emotions are not as intensely overwhelming and I've noticed an increased capacity to read and understand technical reports I'd shy away from most of my life. I'm outraged at the medical community, my life could have been so different; certainly better self esteem. I encourage you to speak up often and don't let ignorance get to you!

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    Thank you for speaking up, Cindy! It angers me that celiac has been turned into a fad-I've been this way for 10 years now. Plus, I became dairy and casein intolerant 7 years ago. Just a heads up when shopping...the grocery stores are busy capitalizing on the increase of "gluten-free" food purchases. Read the fine print!! Many of the store brands are produced on shared equipment and cannot be certified gluten-free. Ignorance runs high on cross-contamination issues as well.

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    Yes it is possible to get all the important nutrients on a gluten-free diet, too many people believe that all of those gluten free items in restaurants and in the grocery aisle are healthier than their gluten-containing counterparts. But most are made with white rice, potato starch or corn, which do not contain many essential nutrients. While a gluten-free diet is absolutely necessary for people with celiac disease and gluten-free intolerance, it is not necessarily healthier than a gluten-free diet for those who don't need it. It can be made to be just as healthy or even healthier with careful effort, but for most people who are adopting a gluten-free diet simply because they think it will be better for them, it is not.

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  • About Me

    I'm an R.N. working in critical care for over 20 years and am currently enrolled in a professional training program to be a certified health coach. I have a son who has mental issues related to gluten and am still dealing with his denial.

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