Dude note: This article appears in the current issue of Simply Gluten-Free Magazine, where I have my own column. It’s a good magazine run by good people. Heck…they even turned down an advertising opportunity from Cheerios. And until March 31, get $6 off a subscription using the code 6OFF. You can subscribe here.
Gluten-free has become an untamed monster. Whenever there is money to be made, the fad soon follows. And holy-moly has gluten-free become a fad. I just did a search on Amazon for “gluten-free books”. Guess how many results it returned. 100? 1,000? How about 20,443! That’s insane.
The question becomes…how do you know who to listen to (besides me of course)? With thousands of books, thousands of websites and thousands of opinions, many of them uneducated, how do you cut through the crap and do what’s right for you? How do you know who is in it for profit and who is in it for passion?
I get emails from fellow celiacs; lots and lots of emails. Some with heartbreaking stories; some with inspiring stories of success; some with great questions; some with medical questions that I cannot (and will not) answer; and some that just want to say thanks (I love those!)
But I also get my share of emails that go something like this:
“I heard from [random source] that [random gluten-free food] has gluten in it.”
“I heard from [random source] you can get glutened walking through the flour aisle in the grocery store.”
“I heard from [random source] that eating out is always dangerous.”
Although I tend not to answer those types of emails that are either grossly misinformed or fear-based, my responses would be something like this:
“No it doesn’t.”
“No you can’t.”
“No it isn’t.”
Getting the facts straight about celiac disease and gluten-free is so important to those in our community. So let’s get some nasty myths out of the way, shall we?
Myth: Coffee contains gluten.
Truth: If it did, I’d be dead. Not sure about flavored coffees, but then again, that’s not really coffee. Yes…I’m a coffee snob.
Myth: Hard alcohol is not gluten-free.
Truth: See my coffee answer above.
Myth: A gluten-free diet is unhealthy and should only be followed if you are a celiac.
Truth: Horse-hockey. My diet is plenty healthy. I eat vegetables. I eat fruit. I eat meat. I eat fish.
Myth: You can absorb gluten through your skin and cause a celiac reaction.
Truth: Nope. Dr. Fasano says “it is the oral ingestion of gluten that activates the immunological cascades leading to the autoimmune process typical of celiac disease.”
Myth: You will lose weight on a gluten-free diet.
Truth: If you eat cookies, cakes and donuts, gluten-free or not, you ain’t losing weight. Not to mention the fact that many celiacs are malnourished when first diagnosed, so odds are you’ll gain weight at the beginning as your body heals and begins absorbing nutrients again.
Myth: Gluten-free should mean 0 parts per million, not 20ppm.
Truth: Currently, the best that we can test for is 3ppm. And most researchers agree that 20ppm is the safe threshold for celiacs. While I’d like to see us be more stringent, demanding 0ppm isn’t the answer.
Myth: You can get tested and diagnosed with non-celiac gluten-sensitivity.
Truth: There is no valid test for this…yet.
Myth: Taking a gluten-digestion pill before a meal will allow you to eat gluten.
Truth: Don’t fall for this baloney and put money in these people’s pockets. You cannot eat gluten, no matter what you do.
So who do you trust? (Or if you’re George Thorogood, who do you love?) My best recommendation is to follow your gut. And sure…pun intended…why not. I don’t want to mention any specific names, but there are a lot of great people out there who are in the business of gluten-free for the right reasons. Find these people. They don’t fear-monger. They don’t give you a hard sell. They are in the gluten-free community because they have something to offer that comes from a good place.
Who don’t you trust? How about the media. So much of the media just sucks. You know that. I know that. Too many of them care only about clicks and ratings and not about truth and consequences. It’s the world we live in and it’s not gonna change.
Perhaps it would change if people would stop buying trash magazines and stop watching crap Reality TV and showed the world that we are indeed an “educated consumer”. But until then, it’s “market to the bottom feeders and collect your money.”
And now the media has taken on gluten. Full force. Here are some recent headlines from some major publications:
“Gluten-Free Fad Debunked”
“Gluten-Free Health Benefits are Overhyped”
“Gluten-Free Food Isn’t Actually Any Healthier for Most of Us”
“Gluten-Free Fad Costing Buyers More with Little Benefit”
“Gluten-Free Food Not Healthier At All”
And to all of those publishers I say this: No duh.
Of course the fad is ridiculous. (The same fad you were more than happy to write all about as long as it brought you click$.)
Of course the gluten-free version of most similar products are no healthier. (But hey, let’s all celebrate that there are now 37 varieties of gluten-free chocolate chip cookies on the shelves.)
Of course it’s more expensive to buy gluten-free food. (And if you buy naturally gluten-free, even more so.)
The celiac community has been screaming this for years. Well…I’ve been screaming. I won’t speak for the rest of you. And it’s not really screaming by definition since I’m writing it, not speaking it. THIS IS SCREAMING. This is talking firmly!! We can move on now.
Heck, even The Huffington Post seems to be writing an article a day about gluten now. You can usually find them right next to their stirring “Britney Spears doesn’t look like THIS anymore!!” articles. Journalism at its finest.
Here’s my hope…and I’ve been hoping this for some time now: The media just moves on to something else. They can earn their editor’s badge on another topic that they will then beat to death. There must be a Kardashian or two that haven’t gotten the attention they crave. Gluten has been played out. Give it back to the celiac and NCGS community where it belongs.
As for the rest of you…if eating gluten-free makes you feel better, don’t eat gluten. It’s really that simple. Don’t listen to the media and the crap they serve up. Don’t fall for the companies that are strictly in this for profit. Pay no attention to the “sky is falling” people who say gluten is everywhere and you should fear for your health.
It’s all about balance. Always has been and always will be.
And one last piece of advice as I wind things down. Listen to your body. It will never steer you wrong.
Now tell us Georgie…who do you love??