My husband and I recently had a Facebook argument with some of our family and friends over gluten. It sure does sound silly when I write that down, but it did happen. The fact that it did happen gives credit to one of the many problems with what I call the Gluten Free Movement.
I wrote facetiously about gluten a while back here Gluten, but that was before our friends and family disowned us. Now, it’s personal, gluten nazis.
Let me preface this with an explanation of our family eating habits. My husband is a self-professed junk food junkie. He loves sodas and fast food. But he eats everything I make for him, and I cook pretty healthy. For real I do.
I am by contrast, drink copious amounts of water and I cut out excess sugar and carbohydrates wherever I can. Most of my meals are lean protein and veggie based. In addition, I run and lift weights every other day.
I feel great. But I never felt bad before when I went on a bread binge or ate pizza, either. So I am certain I do not have any sort of sensitivity to gluten. Nor does the rest of my cake-loving family.
So why am I so pissed off that everyone is ‘going gluten free’?
Because at a base level it is food snobbery. Like energy drinks, Starbucks and kale chips, it’s something that yuppies have adopted to feel superior. It’s the idea that if it costs more and is difficult to find, it has value.
Now, before you send me hate mail, let me clarify that I am not ignorant of Celiac disease and gluten allergies. But only about 1% of our population has Celiac disease, and about that same percentage have the lesser diagnosed gluten allergy. Gluten DOES make these people sick.
I get that.
But I don’t think everyone does.
People with Celiac disease, and even gluten allergies, don’t just have tummy aches after eating a sandwich. They have severe intestinal issues that are debilitating. They often loose unhealthy amounts of weight, suffer from chronic headaches, loss of bone density, and often have anemia. These symptoms should not be ignored, and if someone is suffering from them they should see their doctor.
Because you can get tested for Celiac disease. You can even get tested for a gluten allergy.
The problem is, there is a large part of the population that doesn’t fall into this category. Actually about 95-98% from the medical journals I have consulted. But a lot them claim to have a gluten intolerance.
I think many of these people are confusing gluten-free with a low-carb diet. I typically eat low-carb for at least one meal a day, and I feel less bloated and have more energy. But if there is cake in the office kitchen, I can eat the heck out of it and the only side effect is guilt.
Aside from food elitists and low-carb confusion, I think a large amount of people are jumping on this bandwagon because of peer pressure.
Your best friend just ordered a gluten-free salad, so you probably should too if you want to fit in. These are the same folks that got the Rachel cut, drank red bull and vodka, and use #Yolo.
Everybody can’t be an Alpha Dog.
And that’s ok, but when it comes to making dietary changes, people should get informed before they follow the crowd.
Few seem to know what gluten is, and fewer have been tested for a gluten intolerance. But they read an article on msn that gluten is bad for them, and they immediately swear off gluten products. Then they start eliminating healthy foods from their diets, and what wasn’t a real health concern before has potentially become one now.
In fact, most doctors recommend that you be tested for a gluten intolerance before you chose to go on a gluten-free diet for this very reason.
It’s also not cheap to eliminate gluten from your diet.
Gluten free products typically cost more, and even focusing on a whole foods approach by buying fruits, vegetables and lean protein can be cost prohibitive when a lot of grains are eliminated from your normal diet.
And eating a lot of meat and produce is expensive. I know, because I try my darndest to make that the focus of my meals.
But I also have to feed three other family members, and we can’t afford to only eat fresh meats, fruits and veggies for every meal. Nor would my toddler go for that, although he does have weeks where he will only eat meat, eesh……..I digress.
So I find it rather offensive when someone encourages me to eliminate gluten. That’s what my husband and I (or maybe just me) were trying to get across to our friends any family.
It’s insulting to preach about gluten to us because we do not have an intolerance and eliminating it from our diet is cost prohibitive and likely unhealthy for us. It’s also elitist and fairly reckless. None of our gluten-free family and friends are doctors or scientists. While I applaud their efforts to lead a healthy lifestyle, I find their information to be misguided and potentially dangerous.