Sometimes I see myself from outside myself and am a little embarrassed that I’m now that person, or at least appear to be…
I was in Whole Foods with my friend the other day (we’re those people who sometimes need more than what the average grocery store can offer). She was looking to buy a gluten-free bread (ugh we’re those people without Celiac but who insist on eating gluten-free), one with something more substantial than starch or other fillers as main ingredients and without yeast (we can’t just pick something up off the shelf! There must be an analysis and conversation and frustration), and that wasn’t $6 (when did our upper price range get so high??).
At some point while standing in the freezer aisle (because room-temperature shelves are for gluten-eaters), I said something like “It’s so hard to find good gluten-free bread without yeast!” and immediately I internally rolled my eyes at myself. I pictured myself as one of these people:
In reality, both my friend and I have legitimate health reasons for having such specific bread criteria, but a passerby would not be able to tell the difference between us and the other people on the gluten-free bandwagon.
It’s unfortunate that gluten-free eating has become the latest fad diet because many people are simply replacing their current processed, unhealthful wheat products with even more unhealthful, processed, and expensive gluten-free products, which then propagates the idea that everyone should be gluten-free. They use “gluten” on an ingredient label as the only marker of health, rather than learning about gluten itself (as much as is possible at this point), other ingredients, and their own body. Their efforts are misdirected. However, it’s also unfortunate that there seems to have been an overreactive response to this. I’ve seen several articles, statuses, and comments online that deny gluten-sensitivity for no particular reason or that criticize those without Celiac who have gone gluten-free. However, downgrading any proclaimed instance of non-Celiac gluten-sensitivity to a made-up yuppie disease is just as bad as automatically assuming that one must go gluten-free to be healthy.
While there are people on the bandwagon who I wish would just eat some quality, gluten-containing bread for those of us who can’t, there are also people who do not have Celiac but still have reasons to avoid gluten. Maybe we’re not totally correct about the specifics of our reasons (as science doesn’t yet have the final word on gluten-sensitivity), but as far as our knowledge of our own bodies and our desire to err on the side of caution goes, we’re doing what’s right for us.
Maybe in a couple years, we’ll find out that it’s something other than gluten that’s the culprit, whether it’s another carbohydrate in wheat or how modern wheat is grown, or maybe we’ll confirm that a certain “gluten-sensitive” gene exists or that an already sick digestive system just can’t handle gluten, or maybe we’ll find out that we’re just eating way too much gluten/wheat (bread, pasta, pancakes, wraps, crackers, cookies, processed foods, etc) and we’d be okay if we just ate these things more moderately. Maybe it’s a combination of some of these or it’s something else, but I do think there’s something going on.
As for me, who knows — maybe I don’t actually need to be gluten-free, but I’m playing it safe since I already have a digestive disease. If I didn’t have UC, I’m not sure what I would do. At the very least, I hope I would recognize that the science isn’t certain yet, and that there are those on the bandwagon as well as those driving the bandwagon.