Gluten Free By Choice?

I recently read an article which claimed that nearly 25% of the US population is “going gluten free,” and that most of them are doing it by choice. Having celiac disease myself, this made me a bit angry. Why on Earth would people go gluten free by choice? No, the food isn’t bad, and there are some really great stuff out there (especially if you have access to a Whole Foods, which I don’t and am bitter about,) but if I had a choice, I can tell you for sure that there wouldn’t be a snowball’s chance in hell of my being on a gluten free diet. Why? Because I freaking love pastry. And bread that doesn’t feel like dirty unless you toast it. And baguettes. And hamburgers with the bun. And eating whatever I feel like at a restaurant. When I eat out, I always eat the same things: (chicken,steak,duck,pork) + (rice, potatoes) + (vegetables, no vegetables) and maybe (ice cream, crème brûlé) for desert. Those are my options. I’m not usually bitter about it, but something about this makes me mad. The idea that my struggle is turning into somebody else’s fad sort of pisses me off. Logically I know that more people eating gluten free foods will create more demand for better, more numerous gluten free foods, but there’s still part of me that finds this annoying.

What annoys me is this attitude: “‘I feel better when I don’t do it. If I go out to a restaurant with friends and I have a beer and a plate of pasta I’m going to feel it the next day. No one wants a gluten hangover,’ said Silvana Nardone, former editor-in-chief of Every Day with Rachael Ray magazine.[1]” Gluten hangover?! Try Osteoporosis in your 30’s. How’s that for a “gluten hangover?” How about intestinal cramps, diarrhea, and lack of nutrient absorption that can cause psychosis* and a ton of other nasty side-effects? Is that the kind of “gluten hangover” your talking about? Didn’t think so. Have you ever considered that you might have a “food hangover” the next day because you’re eating shitty pizza and Budwiser? No, you’re right, that couldn’t have anything to do with it; must be the gluten.

The thought that bothers me the most, is that one day I’m going to walk into a restaurant, order a burger without the bun, and the waiter is going to say to me, “Oh, you’re trying that new gluten free diet?!” I don’t know how exactly I’ll respond, but I’m pretty sure it’s going to be along the lines of, “No, I’m trying to prevent my immune system from destroying my intestines, and I’ve been doing it since I was 11. Want to like to trade immune systems? What’s you blood type?”

Normally I try not to rant like this in public, and I apologize if I’m just being a troll, but this is actually very annoying. I don’t care that other people want to eat gluten free foods, but the fact that a diet that I have fought to cope with, and that can be very frustrating, is becoming the latest “big thing” really annoys me. It belittles the struggle that I, and everyone else who has Celiac Disease, goes through every meal of every day.

*To be fair, I don’t get the immediate symptoms like the diarrhea and cramps, I just get the fun stuff like psychosis and osteoporosis if I eat the stuff long term. While this sounds like a better deal, it also means that I have no immediate indicator of whether or not I have eaten gluten, and therefore don’t necessarily know when I’ve eaten it. And I do know people who have had serious complications with Celiac, one of whom had frequent blackouts before she went gluten free.

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5 thoughts on “Gluten Free By Choice?

  1. Why would you get so angry at people going gluten free? Regardless of whether or not they have celiac disease, they are making things much easier for those who do. The fact that you can go to a restaurant and order gluten free without being looked at like you are crazy is just one benefit of the rising popularity of the gluten free diet. The new “fad” doesn’t belittle your struggle, it validates it.
    Glass is half empty, glass is half full…
    All the best

    • As I said in my post, I don’t have a problem with people going gluten free. And I don’t doubt that some part of my reaction is simply irrational; there’s a part of me that sees others complaining about a “gluten hangover,” and wants to scream at them because my consequences for gluten are far more serious than feeling a little groggy after overeating.

      But what really annoys me about the gluten free diet being a fad is ignorant people. Ignorant people all over North America will now think that the gluten free diet is only a fad – that it’s a choice, and to see something that I have to fight with turning into something as ephemeral and pointless as a fad is just frustrating!

      I know that good things will come of this, and my annoyance goes much deeper than just this one issue. It was not my intention to make it seem like I don’t want people to go gluten free; on the contrary I do, because I still haven’t found any good gluten free bread, and the more people complain about the bread, the more likely someone is to do something about it! The purpose of this post was simply to tell some small segment of the world that the gluten free diet is not a choice for everyone, and that making a fad of the treatment to a disease can be kind of annoying.

  2. Gluten-free diet as fad. Hmmm, very interesting. Do these people who have taken up the cause, while undoubtedly furthering the cause of half- decent gluten-free food, really know where gluten is hiding in ALL their food. Possibly they are just avoiding white, processed bread and similar obvious products. To truly be gluten free, they need to learn how to decifer the available information on labelling – bearing in mind that some ingredients do not need to be explicit in their origin. This makes a difference for someone who is so sensitive as to cause a life-threatening reaction. Also, many companies making gluten-free food try to make up for the gluten by adding startling amounts of fat and sugar. However, if all this fad diet is doing is making people aware that too much processed food with too many additives is bad for them, thats great! But please don’t tell me that you are going gluten-free when you don’t have all the facts. Were these people told that they can no longer use their toaster, cutting board, utensils or anything else in their kitchens that has come in contact with gluten? Yes, some people are that sensitive. Do these people walk into a restaurant and have to trust a waitperson who probably doesn’t know whether or not something contains gluten yet will assure you that it doesn’t? Believe me, a restaurant that can claim to be truly gluten-free is a rarity. How often to do you order a diet drink and receive a regular drink? Not a big deal unless you have something like Type I Diabetes. Same thing for gluten if you have Celiac.
    Many restaurants will at least make an attempt to identify what you are ordering and that is truly, truly appreciated by many.
    My point, other than to foist my opinion on you? Possibly we should call this new diet a GLUTEN-REDUCED DIET. My guess is that most people, ones with Celiac included, have a difficult time truly being gluten-free. The point of the blog is very well taken. Do not minimize this into a fad diet. Call it what it is. If people want to follow some of the guidelines, PLEASE DO, possibly some of our food supply will be a little more palatable for it, not to mention much healthier. Change in something as large as the food industry is a slow and difficult process. We need all the help we can get!

  3. I understand why you are so annoyed. I have a friend who gets very uppity about her food choices (i.e. judges me for drinking sweet tea that is half cut with unsweet instead of 3/4 cut because that’s just “straight sugar!”) This same friend insists that gluten makes her feel all icky and “it’s bad for you!” Oh and she won’t drink milk because she is pretty sure she is mildly lactose intolerant. But I assure you, I’ve seen this girl down cookies and ice cream and pasta and milkshakes over and over again. She just likes to talk. THAT is what you don’t want to be categorized with. And God forbid one of these people ever tells you you are lucky in any way because “gluten isn’t good for you!” I’ve still never heard anyone tell me why, though… Best of luck in your Gluten Free by Birth life.

    • Ah yes, the “gluten is bad for you argument.” Gluten is indeed bad for some people. Some people – even without celiac – don’t tolerate gluten well. But I think it’s a stretch to say that gluten is “bad for you,” which really means “bad to eat” or “unhealthy.” If you stop eating something and you feel better for it, then great for you! Don’t eat it! But don’t go on a crusade over it.

      That is to say, I feel your pain, and thank you for feeling mine.

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