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What Bugs Me About “The Dangers of Going Gluten Free”

Today I read an article in the Canadian magazine “Maclean’s” called "The Dangers of Going Gluten Free" and it kinda ticked me off.

Here’s why…

First off, while the author uses such superlatives as “amazing” and “astounding” while discussing the growth of the gluten free market, it’s done in a negative way, including “lucrative” and “business is booming”.  Why is that a problem?

It’s as though business is inherently evil and if business is booming, that’s a bad thing.  Let me explain why it’s not… Simply because when all these companies are getting on board, they’re starting to pay attention to a huge need.  And with that attention (and competition) the price of gluten free food is dropping and the variety and quality is growing, which is again, great for us.

More options, cheaper prices… that’s good, right?  Let’s not claim that simply because business is booming this must be bad.

But then comes the “medical” assault.

That there’s only so many "real" celiacs and that there are “real medical concerns” about going gluten free if you’re not a diagnosed celiac.

Well, what of it?

If I decided to give up steak, would my health suffer?  Or what about potatoes?  Obviously not… there’s no human physical dependence on steak or potatoes.  They’re not required eating.

Neither is wheat, barley and rye.

Sure, I’ll give them one thing.  Yes, there’s a lot of unhealthy “gluten free” food being sold out there. Yes, “Gluten Free” does not, in and of itself, equate with “healthy”.  But isn’t that true of food in general?  There’s lots of food to choose from, and if you choose too much unhealthy over healthy you’re going to run into trouble.  This is true whether or not it's labeled gluten free.

But still, that doesn’t mean that if you give up gluten you’re going to be harmed in some way, which is what authors imply when citing “real medical concerns”, or “doctors are confused and worried about the possible dangers of going gluten-free”.  Come on, really?  If I don’t eat gluten I’m going to be unhealthy?

The other thing that really gets me going when I read stuff like this is the overuse of the emotional words “fad”, “craze”, “bandwagon” “pariah”, or “frenzy”.  All this does is cast us (“Gluten Avoiders”) in a undeserved negative light.  Couple that with phrases like “these individuals invariably take matters into their own hands” and you’ve nearly got a full fledged inquisition going on!

Really.  Can you imagine?  Taking your health into your own hands?  Oh my, what is this world coming to?

The article ends with the ominous declaration that by going gluten free people “may, in fact, make matters worse.”  But the entire article does little to explain this conclusion.  It tells us only 2 reasons you might be “doing [yourself] more harm than good”:

  1. By not being able to get a diagnosis later on because you won’t have the indicators in your bloodstream (ie. you won’t be sick anymore!).
  2. “Doctors” say that unless you have celiac disease or a wheat allergy you don’t have to go gluten free.  (Therefore you shouldn’t?  That’s not how logic works, folks.)

Since when does not eating something, anything, constitute a problem?  It’s not as though people will die if they don’t eat wheat.  It’s an optional part of our diets.

Finally, the article (and others like it) explain the widespread nature of gastrointestinal problems, the vast numbers of undiagnosed celiacs and gluten sensitive people, and how there aren’t good tests for detecting these issues, but then cast the whole gluten free movement negatively.  Why would you do this as you explain the positive benefits people receive when avoiding gluten?

Let me point out, again, that giving up gluten is not going to harm you!  It isn’t a nutritional requirement.  It’s not the same as giving up water.  The human body can live without gluten just fine.  Whether or not you’re allergic, sensitive, intolerant or nothing at all.

I simply wish that the millions of people who are finding their lives improve when giving up gluten wouldn’t have to be characterized in such a poor light.

Yes, we are taking control of our health… isn’t that a good thing?

2 Responses to What Bugs Me About “The Dangers of Going Gluten Free”

  1. Muriel May 19, 2015 at 6:04 pm #

    What issue of Maclean's was that? I'd like to read the story myself.
    Maclean's magazine is not one of those scandal rags so I find it interesting that you were upset about the article - perhaps you have already sent a letter to the editor, if not, you should.

    • Angie Halten (Admin)
      Angie Halten (Admin) May 20, 2015 at 10:12 am #

      Hi Muriel, I believe the article referred to is linked to in the first paragraph.

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