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Why All the Hate for Gluten-free Celebrities?

Celiac.com 09/11/2015 - At Celiac.com, we're generally of the opinion that any publicity about celiac disease and gluten sensitivity is good publicity. We've always believed that the less people know about celiac disease, the more those who have it are at risk.

Photo: CC--daniel oines

Undoubtedly gluten-free celebrities are bringing a huge awareness to celiac disease and the gluten-free diet, and this has lead not only to increased awareness of the disease, but also may have directly contributed to lowering the overall risk for those of us who have it by vastly increasing the number of people who are on the gluten-free diet. This has ultimately led to an explosion in the number, variety and availability of gluten-free products. 

Interestingly, articles about gluten-free celebrities have prompted some our strongest and most vocal backlash. The main thrust of many of these negative comments seems to be the idea that the seriousness of their own celiac disease will somehow be adulterated by celebrities who "come out" about the gluten-free diet but don't actually have celiac disease. Somehow they believe that this could lead to others not taking the diet seriously enough, or there is the belief by some that these celebrities just want to make a buck off of those who need to be on the diet.

A partial list of some noteworthy celebrities and athletes who reportedly follow a gluten-free diet due to celiac disease, gluten-intolerance, or other reasons include: news host Keith Olbermann, actor Billy Bob Thornton, Elizabeth Hasselbeck, Katherine, Dutchess of Kent, pro quarterback Drew Brees, news anchor Heidi Collins, Katherine, Dutchess of Kent, news host Keith Olbermann, actor and writer Billie Bob Thornton, author Sarah Vowell, and actresses Zooey Deschanel, Susie Essman, Jennifer Esposito, Goldie Hahn, Gwyneth Paltrow, Emily Rossum, and Rachel Weisz.

We've mentioned a few of them in articles over the years, and boy have we gotten some spirited responses. Here are a few:

The above article prompted this comment:

  • "I'm very surprised celiac.com would promote this kind of stuff on their site. Celebrities going gluten free does not help our cause. It just diminishes it."

We've selected some of our favorites comments for your reading pleasure. Celebrities who've drawn the ire of our readers include Lady Gaga, about whom one reader wrote: 

  • "Great. One more celebrity jumping on the gluten-free bandwagon 'to lose weight'. This doesn't help establish credibility for the celiacs who truly need to follow a gluten-free diet."

While another wrote:

  • "It is very aggravating when there is publicity for a notorious star on a gluten-free diet without good reason. I think it trivializes the serious medical problem of celiac disease. This needs to be recognized as the dangerous condition it is and the diet needs to be followed for life. This is NOT A FAD DIET!"

Our article about good old Gwyneth Paltrow caused one reader to write:

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  • "Paltrow - not my cup of tea. Nose in the air and head - we need better examples of celebrity concern and involvement."

One reader took particular exception to the idea that Novak Djokovic occasionally breaks his gluten-free diet:

  • "He is a disgrace to the GF diet. Go on Youtube and search Novak Djokovic Interview On Live With Regis & Kelly 09-13-2011 watch from 4.35 where he admits he still eats gluten. Thanks to celebs like him CD is seen as a joke!"

Elizabeth Hasselbeck doesn't fare much better, sparking one reader to comment that:

  • "Elizabeth Hasselbeck is trying to get attention. Her story is no different than thousand of others."

When actress Charlize Theron called BS on gluten-free diet faddists, our readers wrote:

  • "Stop giving airtime to people who have obviously not done their research and/ or do not know how to read and interpret scientific studies."

And:

  • "Charlize has a real potty-mouth, and is not overly bright. Does she think that gluten free means sugar free, since she blasted the cupcake for not having sugar. I don't believe actors are medical experts, just because they are popular. And I sure wouldn't take any advice or change my diet on their say-so."

More than a few readers commented on our article entitled Jimmy Kimmel Skewers Clueless Gluten-free Dieters, including one who wrote:

  • "Why is gluten intolerance or coeliac disease supposed to be hilariously funny and only something that hypochondriacs obsess about? At least most of these people showed some awareness of what foods contain gluten, I do not see that it matters much if they cannot give a scientific definition."

Another reader agrees, noting:

  • "this is no 'joke' to those who have the slightest crumb and get very, very ill. Everyone is affected differently, but I wouldn't wish those cramps and the pain on my worst enemy."

Practically the only celebrity to come out of a gluten-free celebrity article unscathed was The Daily Show's Jon Stewart.

We did get overwhelmingly favorable comments about Jon Stewart's handling of the topic of celiac disease, and its effects upon him as a dad.

Proving perhaps that, if you're a popular celebrity with an accurate, compassionate and serious message about celiac disease, people probably won't hate you.

Oh, and then there is Chelsea Clinton. If you count Chelsea Clinton as a celebrity, then it's fair to mention that folks had nice things to say about her gluten-free wedding cake.

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12 Responses:

 
Deena
Rating: ratingfullratingfullratingemptyratingemptyratingempty Unrated
said this on
14 Sep 2015 5:53:21 AM PDT
Anytime attention is brought to celiac disease and GF diet it's a good thing. I don't care why vast amounts of GF products have flooded the market and options available in restaurants have skyrocketed. I am just glad our GF daughter has wonderful options! If celebrity attention to the GF diet has contributed to increased awareness, who cares! This isn't a contest folks.

 
G Harrison
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said this on
14 Sep 2015 9:36:33 AM PDT
I always thought that those who were critical of celebrities who have gone gluten free were part of some wheat producers' conspiracy. The more people who are gluten free, the easier it is for me to find cheaper gluten options. I have no idea why someone who has had their symptoms relieved by avoiding gluten would be critical of someone else, whatever their reason for doing it.

When I was diagnosed, my doctor suggested that I go to a celiac association meeting to learn more about it. My chapter included a section on gluten intolerance and told those in the room that if they had symptoms that were relieved by avoiding gluten, that it was likely they were intolerant and should avoid gluten. It sounded like common sense to me.

But it isn't just celebrities. I recently had dinner with a celiac who talked about other celiacs as though they were hypochondriacs. Being one, I was a bit irritated by this, as she threw around comments like the ones attributed above (about celebrities), to everyone else who avoids gluten.

 
Bek
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said this on
14 Sep 2015 11:55:02 AM PDT
Thank you Deena & G Harrison! I totally agree. I cannot stand when people criticize a celebrity or other media source for bringing more publicity and awareness of celiac & gluten intolerance. It's ridiculous! Count your blessings people! There is SO much more awareness now than there was before, SO many more resources, and best of all, SO many MORE GF products available! These people that have an issue with that are negative martyrs. I truly believe that wheat & gluten are terrible for anyone to ingest. Not just people with Celiac or gluten intolerance. I would love to see it become less & less prevalent so there is less risk of exposure & so that our society as a whole is more healthy overall. Please people, get your priorities straight!

 
Teresa
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said this on
14 Sep 2015 1:50:32 PM PDT
This argument reminds me of the attitudes towards vegetarians in the 70s and 80s. People make judgments based on little knowledge, not helped by newspaper articles which are based on judgments with little knowledge. Irresponsible, poor journalism, plus perhaps a smidgen of bias engendered by the lobbying of those with vested interest in the loss of sales of relevant products.

 
Caroline
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said this on
14 Sep 2015 2:52:54 PM PDT
It's been 2 1/2yrs since I was diagnosed and in that time I have seen lots of choices become available for myself and fellow celiacs. I, my friends also, know what to look for on labels thanks to more awareness. Oh and sometimes you just gotta lighten up- laugh and just carry on doing what's best for you. You can always explain what celiac is to those who don't know, again thanks to awareness- oh and Celiac.com

 
MsKat
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said this on
14 Sep 2015 7:10:01 PM PDT
It's such a double edged sword, to have celebrities involved in this publicly, just as with other health issues. On one hand, it's great that they bring any kind of awareness to a condition or disease that helps others-before more celebrities became vocal about it, the stores and restaurants in my area had zero dedicated gluten free items, I just had to examine everything I picked up so closely before I tried it, which translated to huge chunks of time being spent just trying to find things I could safely eat, taking all the fun out of cooking and all the enjoyment out of eating. On the other hand, not all publicity is good publicity, and not all viewers view things with an objective eye, instead only seeing what they want to see. In some cases what people see is that those who must have a gluten free diet are just picky eaters, or are trying the latest diet trend. They only see those celebrities who make it seem that way, and conclude we are all that way. Like the local baker or carry-out establishment I'd love to patronize, but cannot because they think it's just a passing fad, so they do not after years, decades, offer a single gluten free item. Or the chains like Starbucks, who discontinued their one gluten free offering I could eat, because the franchisees never advertised they had anything gluten free, then when nobody bought it because nobody knew they had it, they stopped making it. Because, they thought it was a fad, or worse didn't know of its importance to a large segment of the population.

 
bnbj
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said this on
15 Sep 2015 3:22:41 AM PDT
The only celebrity listed there I know for sure has celiac disease is Elisabeth Hasselbeck. She is not promoting GF simply because it is trendy or a fad diet, but is sharing what her experience has been with the condition. It doesn't make sense to criticize her. But no doubt, often the real reason she takes heat and gets pounded is because she is a conservative and on FNC.

 
admin
( Author)
said this on
15 Sep 2015 2:08:03 PM PDT
Most of the negative comments on the Hasselbeck articles we did had nothing to do with her politics, and mostly to do with other issues mentioned here.

 
skammons
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said this on
18 Sep 2015 10:39:52 AM PDT
I think Zoey Deschanel is celiac too. Or at least Gluten Intolerant.

 
Mary Hopkins
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said this on
15 Sep 2015 6:11:34 AM PDT
I don't think those of us with celiac should look a gift horse in the mouth. Granted, celebrities going gluten free won't raise awareness of the disease but it doesn't diminish it either. The real benefit is in the reaction from the food industry. For instance, when General Mills recently introduced gluten free Cheerios, the company stated that it made the move because 1% of the population has celiac and 30% is avoiding gluten in their diet. My guess is that if it weren't for that 30% - Cheerios and other foods would not be gluten free. So for that, I say thank you.

 
admin
( Author)
said this on
15 Sep 2015 2:04:50 PM PDT
Why would you say that "celebrities going gluten free won't raise awareness of the disease"?? Many people are now aware of both the disease and the diet precisely because certain celebrities they know have celiac disease or went on the gluten-free diet.

 
Melanie
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said this on
15 Sep 2015 12:27:10 PM PDT
Thanks for writing this Scott! I advocate the mantra: 'Let us eat food that makes us feel good without judgement, thank you.'




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I believe the talk around this forum is that cheerios are not gluten free enough for people with celiac at this time. I don't know if anything has changed on that and when their lawyer calls me I'll quickly delete this. haha

Could be we generally say get off of dairy for a few months when going gluten free. The part of the intestines that produce the enzymes, and help break down dairy are associated with the tips of the villi, which are the most damaged if not gone in celiacs. THIS is why most of us end up with a lactose intolerance early on. And most can introduce it later after healing. As to her symptoms with it there was a bunch of research about dairy permeated the gut and causing neurological issues in a autism study I was looking at years ago. And there have been other studies about damaged intestines and how the hormones in milk can easier effect ones body. Personally I also have a huge grudge against dairy on a personal level as it is not natural to suck on a cows tits and drink the stuff, nor your dogs, nor a rabbits......I mean come on even Human Breast milk you would find odd to drink as an adult right? Back in the past dairy was a great way to get calories and fats when there was famine, etc around I mean it is meant to make a calf grow into a 500+lb cow. But on a genetic and hormonal level it is not really for human consumption and now days the whole corporate BS propaganda push and dairy farms shove that oh its healthy stuff down your throat. There are plenty of dairy free options for everything feel free to message me if you need help finding anything I have been dairy free for over a decade.

The full celiac panel checks TTG IGA and IGG, DGP IGA and IGG, IGA, EMA as Jmg stated above. Your test included TTG IGA and IGA. If your IGA was low, a low on TTG IGA would be inconclusive. But your IGA is fine. A high on any one test is a positive for celiac and should lead to an endoscopy for confirmation. So I'd get tested for TTG IGG, DGP IGA and IGG and EMA since there are symptoms. Warning I'm not a doc.

I did a gluten challenge for my endoscopy and requested a second blood test after my follow up with the consultant. I never did see those results but my GP said no celiac was indicated: Which left me gluten free for life, that wasn't an option after the challenge, but with a less satisfactory diagnosis, one by omission rather than the definitive 'you're celiac' one I was expecting. Yes! I have been 'properly' glutened on a couple of occasions but on several more I've detected a change or a reaction based on what could only have been trace amounts. NCGS is as yet poorly understood but patients tend to have more neuro symptoms than digestive. That's definitely been my experience, although it was only after going gluten free that I realised quite how many digestive symptoms I had just been living with as 'normal'. Close friends and family get the full explanation. 'I have an auto immune disease similar to 'coeliac etc.' If they stay awake long enough I'll tell them about the less than perfect testing process I went through or the Columbia Med research and the possibility of a blood test soon. They can see the difference between me on gluten and off it so they understand its not all in my head* If I'm ordering food in a restauarant or asking questions about food prep etc I will often just self declare as coeliac - people are aware of that and understand those requests are medical rather than fad diet based. I don't have any problem doing this, I'm not going to claim that and then cheat on dessert for instance and to be honest I expect once the research is complete the two conditions may wind up alongside others as different faces of the same coin. In the meantime I safeguard my health and avoid getting into a detailed conversation about genuine gluten sensitivity versus faux hipster posturing! *apart from the bits which are in my head

I originally had it on my face and scalp. (22 years ago) First biopsy with dermatologist came back as folliculitis. Then when I had a new outbreak on my upper back, she was able to remove a nice clean blister and we got the diagnosis of DH. She started me on Dapsone (100mg/day) and gluten free diet. Now I take 25-50 mg/day. My understanding at the time was that DH was the skin version of Celiac. Did a lot of research on my own. I met Dr. Peter Green at a Gluten free Vendors Fair and he said that a diagnosis of DH IS a diagnosis of Celiac, even if no other symptoms. So I stay gluten-free