Yes, Virginia, I do have issues with wheat

Kermit the Frog's angry dance. This is how I feel when people tell me I don't REALLY have issues with gluten.

Kermit the Frog’s angry dance. This is how I feel when people tell me I don’t REALLY have issues with gluten.

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.

Sigh... bread pudding. So delicious, so filled with gluten.

Sigh… bread pudding. So delicious, so filled with gluten.


8 responses to “Yes, Virginia, I do have issues with wheat

  1. I definitely agree with your opening line! I have celiac disease, and obviously can’t eat Domino’s pizza or a lot of foods that are labelled “gluten free” (especially in restaurants and cafes). It’s a pain in the butt, but I realize other people have good reasons (besides trends) for being gluten free too. I’m a firm believer in testing for celiac before going GF too, but I totally understand that once you’re gluten free you don’t want to go back to be tested (that would be miserable).

    I actually blogged today about some of the nice things my family and friends do to help me with my food allergies and celiac disease! Every time I become frustrated, I think of all the people who help me (even though some don’t really understand celiac disease and listen to my restrictions on blind faith). Just remember there’s a bunch of people looking out for your safety too, and a pretty nice online community too! 🙂

    • In hindsight, not getting tested was not a great choice— since I was in grad school, working part time, and had already gone gluten-free, I figured I didn’t need to. Now, though, it might be nice to have an actual diagnosis.
      Having said that, I’m very glad I made the switch, cleared up some health issues for me. And I do hope researchers keep looking at celiac and other gluten-related health ailments— I think it’s an area where were just don’t a lot yet.
      I’ll have to check out your blog! And despite the grumpy tone of this post, most of my friends and family have been just wonderful about accommodating the dietary restrictions. Thanks for reading!

      • Yeah, I definitely get it! I just think it’s important to know for the contact/contamination aspect. I’m so glad you feel better too! It’s one of the best feelings. 🙂 I love your blog, and thanks for stopping by mine too!

  2. Wootwoot ! Well said! Why the heck should I care if you choose Vegan and gluten-free? Do what is right for you! I know I do!
    I’ve done the research. Diets are highly individual things. My own path has reulted in a dramatic decrease in migraine headaches. I know vegans and of fruitarians who are incredible athletes. Is anyone going to convince me or them our choices were wrong? I don’t think so.
    Good for you, taking charge of your life.

    • On the same note, I have no problem with meat or people eating meat. If you want to order a steak when we’re out at dinner, do it! (Just don’t offer me a taste 🙂 )
      Since I have some friends with other digestive issues (like Crohn’s) and just different tastes in food, I’ve become a lot more relaxed about what’s considered “healthy.” Food that is healthy for some can be like poison for others. (And the more I travel, the more I appreciate the incredible diversity of culinary standards people have.)

  3. Great post! I’m so sick of people asking me why my lunch looks “super healthy”. Talking about food intolerances is boring and I try and steer conversation away from why I’m choosing to live this way.
    I also had a doctor tell me that it was all in my head – great advice coming from a medical professional – sheesh 🙂

    • Oof, sorry about the doctor! Yeah, I don’t mind questions from co-workers if they’re looking for recipe ideas… but a little but of “why are you eating that?” goes a long way. Glad you found a diet that suits you, and thanks for reading!

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