I'm Gluten Free: Finding your Voice

Let's pretend you're my doctor, or a nurse, or a caregiver in my old age.  If I told you I never eat mushrooms, you would accept that, or you might mention one or two benefits of mushrooms and then drop it.  It's a preference, no big deal.  But so many people, who are in a position of authority, choose to attack a person for using diets that were originally intended for medical use, that I think it's important to consider why.  I'm finding it hard to convince myself that it's only because they are concerned for my wellbeing.

There are of course other medical diets that have entered popular use:
  • the Ketogenic Diet (very low carbohydrate diet), used for epileptic children, but incidentally a good way to lose weight or stop PCOS events
  • the Diverticulitis Diet (low fiber diet), which incidentally avoids FODMAPS and often helps IBS
  • the Kidney Disease Diet (low protein diet), which incidentally can be used to describe Fruitarianism or some forms of the modern Vegan diet which is intentionally low in protein.

This is not an exhaustive list, there are many more, (low iron diet for hemachromatosis, etc..).  Often, a medical diet is intentionally deficient in something because theoretically, in some diseases, the body is better off without that nutrient.  However, that can't be said for the Gluten Free Diet.  In the US, it involves avoiding only wheat, barley and rye (and close relatives such as triticale, a new type of wheat).  In Australia and India, it also means avoiding oats, even "gluten free" oats.  Carbs are not avoided. Sweet desserts are not avoided.  Legumes are not avoided. 

Since there is no inherent nutrient loss in avoiding only a few grains, it's a mystery why voluntary Gluten Free eating is so maligned in some corners.  Carbs are still available, whole grains are still available, vitamins found in grains are still abundant in the gluten free diet.  Voluntary Paleo eaters are even more restricted, because they derive no nutrition from dairy, grains or legumes at all.  But many Paleos are men, marketing to other men.  And Gluten Free is more of a woman thing.

Men and Women both need Celiac screening and diagnosis

When I was running a Meetup group, I tried to open the conversation so that more men would be interested (GF beer, exercise performance..), but no men actually showed up, even if they joined.  The membership roster was leaning very  heavily toward women.  Compare that to the participation of men in Paleo or Primal forums.  It's not explained by the illness because the rate of celiac is the same for men and women (the genetic tendency is not sex-linked), but it is true that more women are likely to be diagnosed, and we have more severe symptoms. We are sicker, so we are the squeaky wheel.

And a woman on a diet, any diet, is a cliche.  We routinely disdain it and tend to measure her success by how thin she is.  Unfortunately Celiac can lead her to a thinness that is extremely dangerous. Women are repeatedly told that they are "yoyo" dieting, or "fad" dieting, and should just go see their doctor (bow to authority, girls!).  If a woman becomes gluten free on her own without "approval" of experts, then it's deviant.  Or is it?  It's not easy to get a Celiac diagnosis or even a screening.  So here we are, battling serious illnesses while being told we're not sufficiently pliant to authority because we "went gluten free" without a doctor's approval.

Approval.  It's a tricky word.  Approval is worth nothing if it's gained based on a lie.  Hypothetically, if your attitude was that the GFD was a bad idea, then if I told you I was eating gluten like a good girl, but meanwhile I was suffering, your approval would mean nothing.

This is how a person can psych themselves out of reasonable and logical actions.  How many times does a person have to eat something that makes them sick, to re-demonstrate to themselves that it makes them sick?   If mayo makes you gag, you don't eat it to prove to yourself that it still makes you gag, do you?  And nobody should expect that you will re-test your food preferences for their satisfaction, except maybe your mother when you're a child, trying foods for the first time.

However, for most of us, we're not having a preference. We're speaking from experience when we say that gluten makes us ill. Unfortunately only some of us have the official "Celiac" label. Science has explained why that is. People don't just make this stuff up, there are much more fun ways to get attention.  So my hypothesis is that the disrespect toward the GFD is partly due to the assumption that mostly women need it or do it.  This assumption hurts both men and women and should be seen for the nonsense it is.

Why should we care whether some people make fun of the GFD?

#1  Because it can weaken the labeling laws.

Here's an example of the danger:  Labeling water "gluten free" is an indirect attack on the GFD Because the more label nonsense is out there, the more it invites derision toward the diet.  If the label law makes no sense or if it can be abused like this, then it will be easier to try and remove or weaken the label law.

Why would anyone want to remove or weaken the GF label law?  Well, it would be much easier to manufacture packaged foods.  And it would be easier to provide for Seniors in senior care facilities.  And schools could stop fussing with food safety (if the allergen law were weakened also) and worry only about the bottom line again. For many reasons, this feeds into the narrative that GF is expensive and we can cut costs by forgetting about it.  Except it's a false savings. 

#2 Because it abuses the Celiac community by politicizing the discussion.

Unfortunately too many people are ready to put their agendas before good health. The attack on the GFD is part of the general attack on "liberal" values. To be honest, I didn't realize that it was "liberal" to be gluten free. I'm not even sure that makes any sense. But a lack of common sense never stopped a good lynch mob.

I hope you don't think I'm making this up.

Here's an example:  http://humanevents.com/2014/02/18/why-liberals-get-away-with-the-gluten-free-scheme-and-conservatives-do-not/

And another from after the 2016 election (when we can assume that some media froth died down):  http://thinkingmomsrevolution.com/dr-paul-offit-takes-aim-liberal-whole-foods-shoppers/

Granted, foolishness online is rampant.  But it's ludicrous to have people making these claims, even in the face of so many Gastroenterologists recommending more research into gluten related illnesses. 

These days we acknowledge that many other diseases, besides Celiac, require or are benefited by a gluten free diet, such as migraines, Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, Thyroid Disease, Ataxia, and Peripheral Neuralgia, to name a few.

Update:  Yet even Harvard makes a mistake when they reduce the gluten free diet to just people with GI issues or Celiac.  That's a huge blunder from a trusted institution to make.  Even if you only consider GI problems, many people with IBD can't tolerate gluten either and they don't have Celiac.  It's especially bad in view of this debate about starting to test  Celiac, Thyroid and Diabetes together, whenever one of them appears in the medical record.  

Lessons from another gluten free diet

For decades, the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) has been in popular use, to reduce the severity of another gut illness, this time Crohn's disease.  Crohn's is an awful mix of gut damage types and often requires a person to undergo surgery or total food abstinence (with TPN - total parenteral nutrition - being fed by IV) because nearly all foods are not tolerated.  It also forces people to stay on medications to combat the autoimmune attacks of the body against itself.

The SCD has even less science backing it and less medical acceptance than the GFD.  So I can only assume it has escaped attack because it's nearly unknown.  I guess things aren't attacked unless they are popular. 

The GFD is sometimes attacked for being restrictive.  But consider that the SC diet is the GF diet, with even more restrictions.  However, the nice thing about the SCD is that there is a long history of baking with that diet.  Many of the new baking ideas in Paleo were taken from SCD (such as focusing on almond flour), though few people are aware of the SCD itself.

By this diversion, I'm pointing out that, when acrimony is directed at something popular, the intention is to get attention for the agenda, not to say anything meaningful.

It's futile to try and make sense of people's agendas.  A friend of mine plays a game on his phone where he chose a name that accidentally sounds Middle Eastern as his "handle."     It's interactive and he became very good at the game.  He was insulted the other day for nothing more than the assumption made of his ethnicity....   which was based on a few letters of the alphabet, nothing else.  My friend couldn't be more WASP if he tried.  We had a good laugh about it. Young people have a phrase for this:  Haters are going to hate.

So rock on... curl up with a good book, a gluten free snack and a warm kittah (optional) and let it roll off you.  It doesn't matter if gluten free is your preference or your requirement based on a disease.  If it makes you feel better, it's perfectly valid and the decision of what to eat is entirely yours.

My kittahs in power save mode.


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