The Ooey-Gooey Gluten Debate. ~ Jody Berger

Via elephant journal
on May 30, 2012
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Ooh, gluten, you must be a dirty word.

At the very least, something seriously dangerous for all the drama you’re creating—and I’m not talking about any messy intestinal distress. No, the real drama is verbal.

It’s a nasty debate that surrounds you.

  Gluten-eaters, smug in their bagel-biting world, shout “Liar!” or “Poser!” at the breadless, as if going gluten-free were only a silly trend—here today and certainly gone tomorrow.

As for gluten-avoiders, they not only let the name-calling go on, they’re joining in.

In online discussions and magazine articles,“Celiacs” whine about their new found popularity and question the credentials of recent converts to the gluten-free life. Longtime sufferers moan and groan that they alone are special, they alone should forgo their daily bread and that recent arrivals only joined the wheat-free party because they heard Miley Cyrus might be there.

My initial reaction to the raging debate was “Who gives a …?” However, the question implied its own answer, constipation being a common effect of Celiac disease.

And yet, for anyone weighing in on whether gluten-freedom is only a fad, I wonder why?

The market for gluten-free goods is $6.3 billion and growing—which makes me, a gluten-avoider, happy beyond belief. Waiters know what I’m talking about and the grocery store offers a huge selection, clearly labeled.

I don’t have Celiac disease. And for those who think I’m ridiculous for adjusting my diet, I have to say, I just don’t care.

I had the test for the disease and the results were negative. But the test is notoriously unreliable—getting the answer wrong almost as often as right. Luckily, a different doctor—my doctor now—suggested an elimination diet, which proved instructive.

I went without gluten for a month, tried it again and felt like I’d been hit by a truck. All my joints ached. Turns out—surprise, surprise—that my body is the best, most reliable diagnostic tool there is for me.

I didn’t like the way I felt eating gluten so I don’t eat it. Simple, really.

As for everyone else, my advice is just as simple: eat gluten, don’t eat it, question other people’s illness or leave ‘em alone. I can’t see why any of that should matter to me, or you.



Jody lives and writes and bikes in Denver. An eternal optimist, she is also a fearless traveler who likes finding herself in faraway places.




Editor: Thaddeus Haas

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10 Responses to “The Ooey-Gooey Gluten Debate. ~ Jody Berger”

  1. Annie Ory says:

    Elimination diets are the perfect test for any intolerance, which doesn't have to be labeled "disease" to be a concern for an individual. The real trick is that you have to add the possible offender in alone. One can't be eating nothing but brown rice one day and then have an orgy in a french bakery and blame the gluten in the breads for how one feels afterward. A true elimination diet adds food ingredients one at a time. That way you know, really really know, what the true intolerance is for. And yes, an intolerance can be "learned" by the body. I was never allergic to dairy, but am quite prepared for the fact that if you avoid dairy for 1 or more years the body becomes intolerant. I don't plan to ever go back. Some things I'd rather not have in my life for a multitude of reasons. If you aren't sure about gluten, it's worth really investigating though, because it really is in so many foods that it means a huge host of things you can eat and it will often mean you're on your own at parties and holidays. I would find it much harder to give up bread than I ever found it to give up cheese. Good health to all.

  2. annieazano says:

    I have to say, I'm happy that people like Miley Cyrus are talking about it. She's bringing awareness to the condition and there seems to be a lot more GF options on offer than in the past. Not to say that Miley is responsible, but the more people who try it, and talk about it, the more receptive restaurants, grocery stores, and friends and family will be to providing options for those of us who can't tolerate (officially diagnosed or not).

  3. I have celiac and I have mixed feeling about the whole thing. It's great to have options of breads and things that don't taste like sawdust. But, because it's so trendy, there are places that make things that are "gluten free" but not safe for those with celiac due to cross-contamination.

    I think we (in the U.S.) definitely eat too much refined wheat and processed food in general, but I don't think foods being gluten free makes them any healthier. I love how you summed it up: it makes you feel better not to, so you don't. It would be nice if more people would just live and let live about each other's food choices!

  4. ashleybess says:

    I respect that some are truly intolerant. What does peeve me, though, is that it has indeed become a huge trend above and beyond true intolerance. I see "gluten-free"dom everywhere, yet it's still hard to find vegan options when dining out. I just wish veganism were as big a movement as gluten freedom (at least here in the heartland).

  5. oz_ says:

    The inverse of the placebo effect is the nocebo effect. It occurs when one ingests a substance which one expects to make them feel ill – and it does, even when it is harmless. It is certain that some significant percentage of the people who think their "body is the best, most reliable diagnostic tool there is" in regard to gluten (or anything else) – including the author – are in fact experiencing the nocebo effect. In which case, it wouldn't be the "reliable" body, but the (unreliable) mind, at work. Thus, given the actual existence of both the placebo and nocebo effects, the body is not nearly as reliable a diagnostic tool as the author posits. And that is a fundamental mistake in epistemology (how we know what we "know") which can lead into some very dangerous waters.

    As a recent piece in psychology today on this very subject put it, "The last thing society needs is a possible health problem becoming a social problem, resulting in a mental health problem."

    I think this is the piece of the puzzle that the author misapprehends. An inability to distinguish between one's non-fact-based beliefs and reality is a problem that can impact society (how else did GW Bush get elected? Twice?). It's pathological. IMO, that's why it should matter to me, and to you.

  6. Malcolm says:

    "Whosoever cooks wheat without the entire grain, or wheat not ground in the mill, it is as if he eats another food, for this wheat furnishes neither correct blood nor healthy flesh, but more mucus. It is scarcely digested. It is not at all good for a sick person, even if a healthy person is able to survive on this food."

    Throop, Priscilla (2011-03-31). Hildegard von Bingen's Physica: The Complete English Translation of Her Classic Work on Health and Healing (p. 11). Inner Traditions Bear & Company. Kindle Edition.

  7. Jody says:

    When I say I went without gluten for a month, it was actually part of a broader elimination diet. I ate no eggs, no dairy, no nuts, no nightshades, no gluten, no alcohol and no caffeine for three weeks and then reintroduced things one at a time. I started with an egg, then waited three days and tried nuts and so on. By the time I got to gluten, I hadn't had any for four or five weeks and the results were pretty clear. I had no reaction to any of the other foods I'd been avoiding and then felt terrible eating gluten.

    It seems weird to me that someone who doesn't know me wrote that I was merely experiencing the nocebo effect instead of feeling what I was feeling in my body. I wonder what makes a person want to argue that they know best. What do you think?

  8. […] many people are affected by gluten. It’s time they take alcohol off of their list of worries and restrictions.” Barak added […]

  9. jaime says:

    i have stopped eating gluten for a week now. i thought about eliminating it for some time now-i get bloated from eating it and i have a lot of fatigue. I have felt great this entire week! more energy and less bloating! now im not saying i will never eat it again. I LOVE micro brews and a few other gluten filled foods, but as amazing as i feel now, i will only indulge once in awhile. I never thought i would try this diet because i've been raised with bread and pasta and love them, but once i realized that i felt like total shit after eating them i had to try it. my sister also has various mild food allergies that causes inflammation in her body. a good way to check is to get a blood test. good luck to you all!