This post was originally published on May 8, 2014, to my previous website, canadianfoodiegirl.com. Other, more recent posts on this topic will follow.
To borrow from a Huffington Post article about Celiac Awareness Month:
May is Celiac Awareness Month. It's a prime time for those with celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity (“gluten sensitivity”) to pull together and rise above the noise of the gluten-free fad diet. And while Celiac Awareness Month is an exciting time for our community, it's not just about us. It's about the 83 percent of you out there living with celiac disease and not even knowing it.
In the article, Alice Bast raises some amazing points.
“The biggest barrier to celiac disease diagnosis is its very treatment — the gluten-free diet…. Casually experimenting with the gluten-free diet could prevent you from receiving an accurate diagnosis as people must be on a regular, gluten-containing diet in order to be accurately tested for celiac disease. “
This is one of the reasons celiac disease (defined below) is under-diagnosed professionally. I've seen friends put off getting testing done because they don't want to experience the pain that gluten causes, just to get a diagnosis. I believe that if you feel better not eating gluten, don't eat it. It's a simple elimination diet. I'm not saying that you shouldn't get tested, but you don't need a professional diagnosis to label you and you don't need to label yourself. You don't need to say “I'm celiac” or “I'm gluten intolerant”, just “I feel better when I don't consume gluten.”
That said you might want to get tested because 1) celiac disease is hereditary, 2) to rule out other ailments that might have similar symptoms, 3) to know for sure. Sometimes confirmation provides peace of mind.
gluten isn't some fattening ingredient or the golden ticket to weight loss
Two responses here:
1. Processed food is still processed food and junk food is still junk food, even if it's gluten free. Follow the rule of not eating crap. I don't care if those chocolate cookies are made gluten free, they're still chocolate cookies. Enjoy them for what they are, but don't fool yourself into thinking that they're healthy.
2. I've ranted before about people who go gluten free not because it makes them feel better, but because they've been told it will make them lose weight, or because they've heard that gluten is “bad”. Those people tend to not know what gluten is, just that it's the new evil. I suspect there's a placebo effect to avoiding gluten too. That is, the positive effect comes from the belief. This isn't a bad thing. Feeling better is feeling better. The bandwagon-jumping gluten avoiders piss off true celiacs and gluten intolerants who would eat gluten if it didn't make them feel like crap. Or so many of them have told me. In a way, then, the bandwagon jumpers are taking some of the perceived credibility away from those who are suffering from the disease (or, if undiagnosed, those who truly feel awful after consuming gluten) and turning the whole concept of “gluten free” into something not taken seriously when it is serious to those who get sick from it. I've heard tales from people who are truly celiac or gluten intolerant or sensitive sometimes who find themselves telling wait staff, “No really…” and trying to distinguish themselves from people who treat it casually.
On that note, let's look at what celiac disease is and what gluten is: