Making fun of gluten-free food is just about as trendy as eating it. And honestly, I’m really dang tired of random acquaintances, family, co-workers, exes and people in my Facebook feed suddenly becoming nutritional experts and lecturing me about what I should and shouldn’t eat.
(A word: most of my friends and close family have been wonderful about the gluten-free diet. Which is no small thing, considering I’m also a vegetarian. Also, I’ve included links to research with facts in this article. Click away!)
I shouldn’t be surprised. As a vegetarian, I’ve heard endless lectures on how I’ll die from a lack of protein, that I can’t possibly get enough iron from plants, and also, vegans are jerks. I’ve had raw meat pushed in my face, pepperoni thrown at me in the high school lunchroom, and just about every odd, foolish question about being vegetarian thrown my way. (No, fish is not a vegetable. Really. And yes, being vegetarian can be healthy.)
I take all these awkward moments as a chance to explain why I like being vegetarian, that veggie food is delicious, easy to cook, and very good for you. And it’s also given me a healthy sense that when people are dealing with a food allergy, people will often get very foolish— not to mention judgmental.
So I try and keep a sense of humor, and to educate people. Sometimes, though, I fed up with people deciding they are my own personal nutrition expert. Particularly when it comes to gluten.
I get it. Gluten-free is super trendy now. It can be aggravating to see people claim to be gluten-free at the dinner table, but are tearing into a donut the next morning over coffee. (Actually, I’ve witnessed this.) However, unless I’ve started giving lectures on how bad wheat or gluten is, it is it not anyone’s place to lecture me.
Worse, earlier in May, a study was released questioning if gluten-intolerance was a real thing or not. Cue the huge headlines: GLUTEN INTOLERANCE IS FAKE!!! Earlier today, I had someone— with a PhD— questioning that maybe it was all in my head. Based on one study. C’mon, one study doesn’t make a fact. Remember the scientific method from high school? Also, I don’t think most people read the original study and then did a thoughtful breakdown of what this study means, how it contradicts their earlier research, and also only focuses on people with IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome.)
And no, I don’t know exactly what I have. I usually call it gluten sensitivity or gluten intolerance. I’m pretty sure I don’t have celiac. But I do know that I’ve had digestive issues, as far back as I can remember, from when I was a kid. Cutting out wheat made the issues stop. And if I intentionally or accidentally eat gluten, I know— often, right away. Getting “glutened” is a bummer. (I also consider it a pretty good blind test: if I don’t know I’m eating gluten and it affects me anyway, it’s obviously not in my head.)
There’s plenty of things I wrestle with. Since I don’t have celiac, am I making it worse for those who do if I order from Domino’s pizza? By buying products labeled gluten-free, am I just encouraging a silly marketing trend? Can gluten survive the distillation process, making whiskey safe to drink? And why doesn’t anyone make gluten-free pita bread? (Well, except for this tiny place in New York.)
I’ve never lectured people about eating meat, and I certainly don’t go around babbling about how a gluten-free diet helped me lose weight. Since going gluten-free, I try and keep a sense of humor— as well as a list of nearby restaurants that I can suggest to friends and family to eat at, and some suggestions for foods I can eat at the dinner table.
My final rant: If you haven’t spent hours researching gluten, then please be quiet. Unless you have spent timing reading books, articles and research about gluten and ppm, and gluten’s effect on the intestines, then you just don’t know what you’re talking about.
And if you are nice and understanding about folks around you with food restrictions and food allergies: thank you. You make the dinner table a happier place to be.