Why is Everyone So Critical of the Gluten Free Diet?

Everyone seems to be over critical of the gluten free diet lately, although I'm not sure why. On Wednesday, iVillage posted the article Why the Billion-Dollar Gluten-Free Industry is Secretly Laughing at All of Us which criticizes food and skincare companies for labeling their products gluten free in order to achieve more sales.  Thankfully they note that ‘Gluten-intolerance (or celiac disease) is a legitimate medical condition’ – at least they recognize that we have a ‘legitimate’ condition as opposed to just being on a fad diet.

From the reported statistical errors to the blatant disregard that foods that ‘barely had detectable traces of gluten’ could make someone with Celiac Disease or a gluten intolerance ill, one thing I don’t understand is why she’s so critical of brands labeling their products gluten free.

My only thought is that she has never spent hours at the grocery store after being diagnosed with Celiac Disease reading ingredient labels of EVERYTHING that she was buying to search for an ingredient that could make her (or a loved one) ill.  Then on top of reading the label, actually calling the company’s 1-800 number (from the grocery store) to see if an ingredient is a derivative of corn or wheat to determine if she can actually eat it without getting sick.  No, my guess is that she’s probably just seen the increase of ‘gluten free’ just being listed on the label.

Finally, one particular part of her piece really made me laugh.  As she scoffs at the high cost of gluten free products verses their gluten-containing counterparts, the journalist recommends to ‘just eat more veggies.’  I’ve found that she is not the only one that thinks that veggies are the best/only option to someone on a gluten free diet.  Typically when I attend an event, eat out at a restaurant (without a gluten free menu) or am looking for a ‘quick, convenient’ meal, it is usually salads that are the safest items to eat.  I think I’m getting my fix of veggies, but thank you for the advice!

But this article wasn’t the only attack at a gluten free lifestyle this week…

On Thursday, the Philly Magazine published Why Is Everyone Buying Gluten-Free Foods When They Don’t Have To? which questions those spending the extra money to purchase gluten free items.

After a brief scare of her own daughter having celiac disease, her initial thought was “Can we really never order a pizza again?”  Well the answer for almost 3 million of us with Celiac Disease is ‘YES’.

In fact, not only do I have to eat a strict gluten free diet, but I also have the support of my family.  My mother and sister both have Celiac Disease and are forced to eat a gluten free diet.  My father eats gluten free to offer a ‘safe haven’ for us in our own home to have a place to eat without constant worry of cross contamination.

You’re right, I was no longer able to pick up the phone and order a pizza.  That was until companies started to offer gluten free alternatives to these gluten-full foods.

I will admit that my diet is mainly fruits, meats and vegetables because I’ve always been a pretty conscious eater (even before Celiac Disease).  However, there are days that I’m craving a slice of pizza or a juicy hamburger with a bun.  Luckily, we have options of gluten free alternatives.

I do appreciate that she pointed out that gluten free options are not a ‘weight loss’ scheme as some people have seen gluten free as a celeb fad diet.  This is a major concern that Celiacs and those who are gluten sensitive have when dining out at restaurants with a gluten free menu.  We fear if we’ll be taken seriously because we’re not eating gluten free by choice.  We’re eating gluten free to avoid our Celiac Disease leading to other health issues like lupus, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, rheumatoid arthritis, dermatitis herpetiformis, liver disease, diabetes, neurological impairment, infertility and cancer.

While they say any press is good press, as an advocate for Celiac Disease awareness it is hard to understand why the media can generalize and be so insensitive on the issue of being gluten free.

Perhaps they don’t understand that food is the center of celebrations, events and just hanging out with your friends.  Maybe they don’t understand what it means to not participate in the office pizza party or a child in a classroom unable to celebrate birthdays with their peers.

When I was first diagnosed with Celiac Disease in 2009 and found a gluten free community online that understood the struggles after a recent diagnosis and the severe learning curve, I felt relieved.   I find my gluten free guidance from this supportive community that understands what it means to be gluten free because of Celiac Disease or other gluten sensitivities, as well as the National Foundation of Celiac Awareness and the Celiac Disease Foundation.