Sunday, December 15, 2013

Gluten-Free: Don't we have enough to worry about in life?

Being in the food business, I have become very much aware of the high numbers of customers coming in to search for gluten-free breads and crackers, much as when the Atkins diet people (of which I was one) searched for similar low-carb offerings when we craved bread, cakes, muffins, etc.

Some people say they just feel better without it. I have known people who were really into great breads and now will not touch them.

In truth, the only physical reasons people have to avoid gluten are those with Celiac disease, another, much smaller segment of the population with  HYPERLINK "" gluten-sensitive idiopathic neuropathy, a disease of the nerves, and then those with a gluten allergy.
Only one percent of people with Celiac disease show symptoms when eating a diet with gluten in it. That leaves two to four percent approximately, that do not. An even smaller segment of the population has idiopathic neuropathy. Persons with this disorder do need to avoid gluten. General allergies or gastric distress can fall within that category of persons affected by gluten, but many cases of gastric distress can by caused by so many digestive problems other than gluten. If you suspect gluten is the culprit, go to a gastroenterologist to find out for sure. You may be just assuming that gluten is the problem in some food products that are healthy for you and depriving yourself of the enjoyment of all the wonderful foods that do contain gluten.
After doing a bit of research, all of the following supposedly can be caused by consuming gluten. It’s so general a list, that you can see that many other things can be a cause such as diabetes, IBS, arthritis, cancer, thyroid condition, poor diet and lack of vitamins, back problems (disc problems can cause numbness, tingling, pain in legs), hormonal disorders (including growth), eating nitrates, overwork, depression that can be caused by heredity or situation, same regarding headaches, same with eczema, and on and on:
Weight loss or gain
Nutritional deficiencies due to malabsorption (e.g. low iron levels)
Gastrointestinal problems (bloating, pain, gas, constipation, diarrhea)
Fat in stools (due to poor digestion)
Aching joints
Irritability and behavioral changes
Infertility, irregular menstrual cycle and miscarriage
Cramps, tingling and numbness
Slow infant and child growth
Dental health decline

The food industry loves it when people conclude something is bad for them without any concrete medical opinion to back this up. It can turn into a fad and a fad can mean big bucks. Just remember the Atkins diet and all the low carb offerings to choose from in stores. A similar thing is happening now with gluten.
It is great for those who genuinely have an illness related to gluten to enjoy gluten-free choices, but remember how few of the population ever are really bothered by it. Then think of all the expensive, gluten-free foods that stores are depending on you to buy. You are falling into the gluten-free trap and fad. Fad is what it really can be. Do your research, see a doctor before accusing gluten. I see and work with just too many people who claim they or their children can’t eat gluten (never once saying why). The percentage of those who really cannot eat it and those who claim they can’t just doesn’t add up.
Just think to yourself: I may not have problems with gluten. I may be able to eat these great, tasty foods with no guilt. Wouldn’t that be freeing, even celebratory to go eat some wonderful fresh home-made bread or your favorite in-store bread? Have your very tasty cheese on any cracker or crostini you wish? Absolutely.
I have respect and sympathy for those few who have real problems eating gluten, as the effects of gluten are no fun, nor is it fun to have to avoid it. Every tom, dick or harry claiming to have the gluten problem seems to me to denigrate those truly suffering from a gluten disorder. I speak as one who has a great deal of limitations on the foods I should eat -- after seeing a gastroenterologist and having tests done. I always have to watch it, eat things in moderation or not at all. I feel that having this for the last 49 years does not make me an authority on gluten-free eating, but it makes me very aware of how many other things can cause distressing symptoms.
I know I may be saying something unpopular, but facts back it up. I’m just pointing out that if you’ve not been diagnosed by a physician that gluten is your problem, consider what is really driving your avoidance of it. Because so many are saying it’s a problem, doesn’t make it true. Try to keep an open mind. Also think of the money grocery stores and food companies are making off your decision to avoid gluten -- that should raise your ire a bit at least. Lastly, if you are concerned  about symptoms you are suffering, please, see a doctor so you know exactly what the problem is.
Please share your personal stories regarding gluten. I am very interested in all of you and through your experiences I hope to gain further knowledge.

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