Well, from a scientific perspective, “gluten is a protein found in foods processed from wheat and other related grain species, including barley and rye. It gives elasticity to dough, helping it to rise and to keep its shape, and often giving the final product a chewy texture.” (Wikipedia)
But that’s not really what I’m talking about here. I mean, what is gluten when it comes to people with celiac disease and gluten sensitivity? And not to get all Zen on you, but why is gluten? What has made gluten the buzzword of 2011/2012?
Well, to us celiacs, as the picture above clearly shows, gluten is the devil. Before diagnosis, it was the cause of 90% of our health woes. And after diagnosis, we realized that gluten is in pretty much everything we’ve been eating and now we must completely change our lifestyle. So in a nutshell, gluten sucks.
Now…does it suck for everyone? Even for those without celiac disease or gluten allergies?
This is where it gets a bit murky.
Gluten has hit the mainstream
Not quite sure why or how or exactly when, but it has. When I was first diagnosed with celiac disease in 2007, most people, including myself, had no clue what gluten was. Now it seems everybody knows. But unfortunately, what most people know they hear from the media. And we all know how accurate, informed and impartial the media is. And then once something becomes popular, everybody sees dollar signs and the entire message gets lost.
The result has been both a bandwagon and a backlash. Some people assume removing gluten is the answer to all of their problems, and others think it’s completely fabricated.
The truth lies somewhere in the middle.
Personally, I do believe that we’d all be better off without gluten in our diets. Consider the following from Dr. Mark Hyman’s site:
A review paper in The New England Journal of Medicine listed 55 “diseases” that can be caused by eating gluten. These include osteoporosis, irritable bowel disease, inflammatory bowel disease, anemia, cancer, fatigue, canker sores, and rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, and almost all other autoimmune diseases. Gluten is also linked to many psychiatric and neurological diseases, including anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, dementia, migraines, epilepsy, and neuropathy (nerve damage). It has also been linked to autism.
55 diseases! And this is from the NE Journal of Medicine. To be clear, this does not apply if you have absolutely no sensitivity to gluten, but 99% of all people with insensitivities never get tested or properly diagnosed.
So think of not only all of the lives that would be saved if everybody got tested, but the financial strain on our health system that would be alleviated if people were properly diagnosed. It’s mind-boggling. And frustrating. And depressing.
Because it will never happen.
The majority of our country are too lazy and set in their ways to ever make a change in their diet. Even if that change could save their life and help the economy. It just won’t happen.
So what is gluten? After 16 paragraphs, 500 words and 2,511 characters, this is the conclusion I’ve reached: gluten is in the eye of the beholder.
To me, it’s the root of all evil.
To others, it’s something they know they should limit and will do their best.
And to others, it’s a media created phenomena that will pass in time and should simply be ignored.
To each his own.