Gluten: The Trendy Allergin

Going gluten-free has become somewhat of a popular trend lately; these days just about every health-conscious person seems to coincidentally have an “allergy” or “sensitivity” to it. Don’t get me wrong, gluten allergies and sensitivities DO exist, but it’s starting to seem to me like a lot of people want an excuse to give up gluten, and go ahead and claim allergy. Now, I’m allergic to dogs, but I don’t see that catching on. In fact, I often find myself embarrassed about it, or even like I’ve offended a dog owner by even mentioning it. Actually, once I did offend a dog owner by mentioning it. We’re no longer friends.

My point is, allergies have never been cool or trendy. But gluten intolerance, allergies, sensitivities or what have you are touted in the most public of places by people who just assume that their indigestion, bloating, post-nasal-drip, grogginess, insomnia, depression, acne, weight gain, low energy, wrinkles and general boredom with life are the fault of this little group of proteins.

If you are, or are considering becoming one of those people who asks their waiter if the guacamole is gluten free, here are some facts to consider:

  1. Gluten is a naturally occurring compound in wheat barley and oats, though oats contain a different type. Gluten does not care if you eat it or not.
  2. Yes, Americans rely too much on gluten containing grains, especially wheat, to make up a large part of their diets.
  3. Eating too much of any one particular thing is bad and can result in sensitivities and allergies.
  4. Conversely, if you give up eating a particular category of thing (like gluten) entirely, it can become harder to digest because your body gets lazy and stops making what it needs to break it down. This explains why many people who, after giving up gluten for a month or two, feel worse than ever when they decide to start eating it again.
  5. Gluten-free versions of normally gluten-containing foods like bread tend to have a lot of crap. Obviously, there’s a lot of naturally gluten-free goodness out there, and commercial wheat breads have a lot of crap too, but gluten is what makes bread rise and you can’t tell me that gluten-free bread is healthier than a beautiful organic artisinal loaf made from wheat flour, water, salt and natural leavener.
  6. Asking a waiter about the potential for food containing something you are not really allergic to is annoying and you will likely be made fun of by other people in the restaurant for doing it. So it better be worth it.
  7. You should not be giving up gluten to lose weight. Being gluten-free is not an excuse for an eating disorder (yes I’m talking to you, Miley Cyrus), and anyone with a real gluten sensitivity should be pissed about this being a selling point. Also, it doesn’t really help you lose weight (unless you don’t replace all the bagels and things you stopped eating with anything else besides celery).
  8. Acupuncture is really good at treating all the aforementioned symptoms. Really, really good. Even without giving up gluten.

Our limited diets have, in fact, made gluten intolerance a fairly common thing. Yes, like all allergies and sensitivities, it’s real. My grandfather developed an official gluten allergy  in the 90’s before it was cool. But, I also know that he never would have voluntarily given up wheat-based bread if he hadn’t broken out in body-wide itchy hives every time he ate it. If you’ve gone gluten free and you really think that it’s made you healthier- that’s awesome! But, that doesn’t mean you should go preaching the evils of gluten as your new-found religion. Going gluten-free isn’t necessary, or even beneficial, for everyone.

For those of you on the fence, gluten itself is not evil. It makes bread chewy and crusty and feel like, well, bread. Clearly, however, we over do it with our morning cereal or bagel, lunchtime sandwich and dinner rolls. Try replacing some gluten-containing grains in your diet with things like rice, amaranth, millet and quinoa.  You are, in fact, allowed to eat those things more often than you eat anything with wheat or oats in it and still not be officially “gluten-free.” And, when you do eat wheat-based bread, make it the best, highest quality bread you can find or bake from scratch, and really appreciate it. Remember, all things in moderation, including gluten. Don’t give it up if you don’t have to.

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2 Comments on “Gluten: The Trendy Allergin”

  1. Taryn Maso Says:

    antihistamines do work for my post nasal drip but i am still looking for a good natural antihistamines that works like Chlorphenamine and Hydroxyzine.^

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  1. Emmer After | The Acupunc - May 31, 2012

    […] Gluten: The Trendy Allergin ( […]

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