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The Gluten Free Fad

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

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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!

As always, welcomes your comments (see below).

Spread The Word

10 Responses:


said this on
16 Jul 2012 9:01:38 PM PST
I identify with your article. Great job. I think a lot of those trying to go gluten-free, just don't realize where the hidden gluten is. We're all going to have to "stay on message" and keep educating. Because to ourselves, we sound like a broken record, but to the ones we reach, they're hearing us for the first time.


said this on
22 Jul 2012 3:15:49 AM PST
I thought gluten-free diets were supposed to make people happier and more carefree. Why be so concerned with the thoughts of the masses?

Rosalie Lenihan

said this on
26 Jul 2012 7:31:39 PM PST
Sorry, Angela, but after years of misery including sinus infections, two failed sinus surgeries to "cure" me, all sorts of inflammatory misery, (try chronic boils on your behind and in your arm pits) arthritis and horrible swelling of my hands and feet for no discernible reason, a nutritionist had me test for gluten intolerance. Oh, surprise! I am highly sensitive to gluten.
I'm 67 years old and don't remember that I've ever felt healthy. I declined the biopsy needed to sign seal and deliver the diagnosis. It's nasty and expensive. I don't know if I have celiac disease, but I know am gluten intolerant. Two sides of the same coin.
I decided to try the diet first. I am in it for the long haul and it's changed my life already.
I did not have the intestinal symptoms of full blown celiac but enough gas, diarrhea, and malaise to pass the symptom cops, I guess.
Please don't be a gluten snob just because someone doesn't fit the neat little diagnosis of which you approve.


said this on
30 Jul 2012 12:33:12 PM PST
Too bad you don't live in Kihei, Maui. We are in the process of opening a 100% gluten-free restaurant! It's still being renovated but hope to open in September. My husband and both sons were diagnosed with celiac disease last year. We know how hard it is to find a restaurant you can trust to be total gluten-free. One of the sons will be our executive chef.


said this on
12 Aug 2012 2:12:22 AM PST
Angela, I have been on every diet in the world and my abdominal fat has done nothing but grow larger. It is like my stomach doesn't even belong to me. As a diabetic, my nutritionist suggested that I try going gluten free. Since I have suspected gluten sensitivity for years, I am now gluten free and many of my health problems are easing. I really resent that you would resent me for not being a celiac, but being allergic to gluten. I feel just as justified to be gluten free and you do. And I intend to stay this way. No, it's not easy, but if I feel better and my health is improving, what's it to you?


said this on
16 Aug 2012 8:59:46 AM PST
I think Angela's article is being misinterpreted. I understand your point Angela. I feel the same way. All or nothing, as a necessity for better health and in some cases life and death even. I surely believe that eating gluten-free is saving my life as a diabetic.


said this on
16 Aug 2012 8:54:16 AM PST
I became gluten and for the most part grain-free through processes of elimination and additions. I am a type 2 diabetic whose sugar levels were out of control. I knew I couldn't go on like that so I started playing with my food! I created my own little diet that I called eat the rainbow and made myself eat fruits and veggies of every color all day long. Some days were great sugar wise and others not so good and I couldn't figure out why. Then one day it dawned on me that the days I had a sandwich made with 100% whole wheat bread my sugar was through the roof. I went a week with no bread and my levels were amazing! I never even thought of being "gluten free" but I ended up there quite by happy accident. I have never felt better, I am finally in control of my sugar, losing weight and still enjoying cooking and baking learning and teaching myself to use alternative flours so I can still enjoy the occasional sandwich or burrito! Fad or not for me it has definitely become a way of life that I have no intention of stopping.


said this on
21 Aug 2012 6:23:37 AM PST
I say if it has become a fad, fine with me. As a celiac, it has no effect on my life whatsoever, other than expanding the gluten-free section in my grocery store (which didn't even exist a year ago) and having more foods labelled gluten-free, which is handy. If someone tells me they're trying gluten-free, I say good for you and give them some pointers. If they drop it later, whatever. I don't consider it a mockery... I don't take new food marketing schemes personally.


said this on
08 Sep 2012 6:22:55 PM PST
All she is saying is that once the fad is gone, the products we need will not be as easy to find because the companies will lose customers once the fad disappears. At least that's what I got from the article. Very good article and well written, thank you for trying to be a voice for Celiacs. Whether you are a Celiac or gluten intolerant, Angela wrote this article for you. Sometimes people need to read articles on the Internet twice to understand. Too bad you can't write in crayon, then some would get it the first time.

said this on
01 Dec 2012 3:06:53 PM PST
Foods that are gluten-free are often thought to be low-carb because they lack wheat flour. While it is true that wheat flour is a source of carbohydrates, gluten-free foods often contain other ingredients that are just as high if not higher in carbohydrates than flour.

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