Why Do You Eat Gluten-Free?
Gluten-free is all the rage these days. Hollywood has embraced it. Companies are plastering “gluten-free” all over their products, even if they have always been gluten-free. So called “experts” are comparing it to the South Beach Diet.
As somebody with severe celiac disease, I watch all of this with frustration and amusement.
So let’s put this to an end and answer the question once and for all.
Why go gluten-free?
I will assume that if you want or need to go gluten-free, you fall into one of the following categories:
Everybody else is doing it. Well, that’s just sad.
I want to lose weight. Not quite as sad, but still misinformed. A gluten-free diet is not a step toward weight loss. If you’re not eating gluten, but are still taking in more calories than you’re burning, guess what? That’s right. Eventually, you won’t be able to see your feet.
I want to give up some of those foods anyway. We’re getting better here. The fact is, a lot of foods with gluten are unhealthy. Pizza, bread, cakes, sauces, cookies, cereals – the list goes on. If you give up a lot of these foods, and you exercise, you will indeed be healthier.
I have a wheat allergy. Do your best to remain completely gluten-free. You may have all of the symptoms of celiac disease even though you’re not diagnosed, but whether you’re doing actual damage to your insides is up for debate. Regardless, eating gluten will likely make you feel bad. Do you want to feel bad? I know I don’t.
I have celiac disease (or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, also called NCGS). Ding, ding, ding! We’ve got a winner. If you’ve got celiac disease, you must, must, must remain completely, 100% gluten-free for the rest of your life. Not an easy task as gluten is everywhere, but you’ve got no choice. Stop cheating. Stop procrastinating. Stop in the name of love.
No more gluten for you.
But here’s the thing. I’ve always said celiacs don’t “own”gluten-free. As much as I wish everyone who eats gluten-free was as diligent as a celiac must be, I know that just isn’t going to happen. And yes, that means that some restaurants may not take us as seriously when we say our food must be gluten-free.
It’s a total bummer but it is what it is.
So it’s fair to say that we all have different reasons for eating gluten-free. I do it because I have to or my body will begin kicking its own butt and I’ll be sick for months. Yes, months. You may do it because you feel it gives you a bit of an edge, or perhaps helps your complexion, or makes you feel less tired.
I received the best email from a fellow celiac that I want to share. She was getting tired of the eye rolls and long winded explanations. So she wrote down exactly how she feels and it explains perfectly not only why those with celiac disease eat gluten-free, but also reasons why we are NOT eating gluten-free.
Dear Friends, Family, and Acquaintances:
I am not eating gluten-free as part of a fad, or because the latest celebrity has decided to jump on the gluten-free bandwagon.
I am not eating gluten-free to annoy you, inconvenience you, or to make things difficult when I go out to eat.
I am not eating gluten-free to be the center of attention or to put a damper on your party.
I am not eating gluten-free to pay outrageous prices for a single cookie, cupcake, or a tiny little pizza.
I am not eating gluten-free to pay a lot more for a little bag of gluten-free flour.
I am not eating gluten-free to worry about what I can eat when I go out to eat.
I am not eating gluten-free because I love to analyze every ingredient on every item I pick up to purchase.
I am eating gluten-free because that little protein that you cannot see in your muffin, cookie, cake, pie, beer, pizza, soup, and yes, even your soy sauce makes me ill.
I am eating gluten-free because that little protein hurts my stomach, my joints, my muscles, and yes, even my brain.
I am eating gluten-free because I have a disease.
How great is that? I couldn’t have said it better myself. I decided to throw the “why do you eat gluten-free?” question out to my audience. I received a pretty cool mix of responses. Some do it because of celiac. Some do it because of NCGS. And some do it simply to support others. Here’s a sampling of their answers:
“I eat gluten-free because I am recently diagnosed celiac … it is not fun for me, it is not a diet, it IS my new lifestyle.”
“Number one reason for living gluten-free, for me, is to give myself a chance at living a good long while more.”
“I eat gluten-free because gluten depresses me, causes me anxiety, severe stomach pain, diarrhea for 24-48 hours followed up by about 5 days of constipation, skin boils, joint pain, and canker sores.”
“If I had been told how serious eating gluten-free must be taken, I would not have had to have a liver transplant back in 2000. My doctor that diagnosed me back in 1994 remarked to me that any time a celiac wants to lose weight, they can just eat a piece of bread! Now my kitchen is totally GF and I don’t see that doctor any longer.”
“I eat gluten-free to try to help my 20 month old child. She seems to get headaches, hit her head on objects and people, shakes her head violently, has verbal issues, walking issues, rocking, and more problems when she eats it. I can’t stand watching my baby in pain so I remove any food that causes it.”
“I eat gluten-free because my son needs to. He had failure to thrive, though the celiac test came back negative. With nothing left to try, I did some research and found he had MANY symptoms of gluten intolerance issues. He went GF and is thriving.”
“I’m gluten-free due to Hashimoto’s. Gluten attacks not only my gut but my entire endocrine system: my thyroid, my liver, my joints, my brain, my fertility.”
“I eat gluten-free because it is a contributing factor to my Chronic Daily Headache. If eliminating gluten reduces the pain I have 20 days a month, I am willing to do it.”
“I eat gluten-free because if I don’t, I will die.”
That last one pretty much sums it up from a celiac’s point of view. If we eat gluten, we’re slowly killing ourselves. Not like a peanut can kill someone with a severe peanut allergy, but more of a slow, perhaps even silent, withering of our insides.
That’s a good enough reason for me!
Written by The Gluten Dude