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Diseases are not trends or diet fads

I have been finishing up a book recently called: In Memory of Bread – Paul Graham, where he talks about his journey and struggle to diagnose and then accept that he had celiac’s disease.

What is celiac’s disease?

For those of you who don’t know, it is people who cannot digest gluten (anything from wheat); long story short, the prolonged effect of this indigestion is death. The gluten basically acts as a poison to their bodies and eats away at them until there is nothing left to eat.

So what’s all right? Everything else that avoids wheats of any kind…except the fact that gluten is in everything.

(Even in sauces like this, they use flour!)

As I was reading it, I started realizing just how much gluten was in everything, from our retainers (yes, there was a little girl who kept getting sick because the polymers in her retainer were wheat-based), and then how many foods had gluten in it:

  • breads, obviously
  • croissants and all pastries
  • soy sauces
  • all pastas
  • pizzas
  • cakes
  • battered deep fried foods
  • beers…… the list goes ON

You’d be surprised just how many items you cook or eat at home, have a touch of flour in them.

It is frustrating just as an outsider looking in, hearing him recount his experience with trying to find GF (gluten-free) foods, and feeling complete sympathy.

He experimented with tons of GF-free flours, breads, beers, and the breadth of what is offered out there is so strikingly small compared to things that all contain gluten in them, is shocking,

Furthermore, the most shocking thing of all is how UNDIAGNOSED GLUTEN DISORDERS ARE.

He cites that it takes 5-10 years to get a diagnosis and even that, is a hard-won battle to obtain because doctors are loathe to call it a disease, citing all kinds of other things instead before honing in on finding a gastroenterologist and getting the markers for the disease.

This is scary to me as a mother that you could potentially have a baby who has celiac’s disease and be completely baffled as to why she is not eating, throwing up, feeling sick…. getting sores from touching the raw dough to play with, etc.

Is it all in our heads?

No. That’s the whole point of this post, actually.

Food allergies are NO. JOKE.

Seriously, I have NEVER thought this in my life. If someone tells me: I cannot eat gluten …. I TAKE it seriously. I consider it a choice between life or death and eating food is not worth that.

I have friends who are allergic to pork, mustard… etc.. and whenever we go out to eat, I GRILL waitstaff out of fear and love to make sure there is nothing that could contain those items in what they are serving, and then check and triple check again.

I know that things like even for pork, are not so easy to identify.

Did you know there are pork by products in Jell-O?

I had a friend get sicker and sicker in a hospital and they were baffled as to why until they realized the gelatin used in the Jell-O contained PORK.

Even mustard — I had a friend tell me she stuck to only Chinese or Asian places because they were very unlikely to use mustard, and I told her that they did use mustard greens and had their own types of mustard plants.

She was horrified.

She had been blindly and happily ordering everything, not checking for mustard thinking it would be fine in a Chinese restaurant.

So no, this is NOT IN OUR HEADS.

Whenever people come up with this argument:

Oh but how come these diseases are JUST only showing up recently? This must be a #FirstWorldProblem.

…it is when I reply that there are probably two factors to this:

A) The disease has only finally gotten a name

Only recently, have people gained some common understanding of what it is.

I heard about it about 10 years ago, where a colleague’s wife had the disease but I didn’t even understand what it meant.

He told me about having to scrub the kitchen clean after toasting a piece of bread for himself, and I just looked at him blankly.

In hindsight and after reading the book, I am understanding that the best and safest way to make sure someone is properly taken care of, is to go on their type of diet as well.

This is a sacrifice that is hard to make because as a person who is NOT gluten-sensitive, you are giving up a wide range of foods that you have been taking for granted.

Before this disease and others had a name, people were just baffled, and just… died from it.

Frankly speaking, trying to diagnose something you could not have dreamed to have even been an issue, is the main problem here — who ever thinks about the common ingredients in the foods that we eat, and such a specific ingredient like gluten.

That, as I mentioned above, is in a heck of a lot of foods and people would just assume you’re allergic to the cheese, or maybe it’s the way it was cooked that is the issue.

B) It could be a result of our modern foods and our terribly processed diet

The book touched on this lightly, but he was saying the best diet for someone with this disease is whole foods, and to avoid processed junk.

(As I say this, I am guiltily eating a Mommy’s Day Off KitKat bar while typing).

He says that the rise in modern or Western food in other countries mostly untouched by wheat for their diets (e.g. Asia), is seeing an uptick in the rise of people being diagnosed with this disease.

In addition, what we do to our foods may be also what is killing our good gut bacteria (something I actually believe in and take Bio-K for on a daily basis).

The more junk you eat, the more the bad bacteria gets introduced into your stomach, and kills all the good stuff that keeps you healthy.

Plenty of studies are now popping up talking about good gut bacteria and how some people are born with more of it, how it affects your weight gain or loss, your health, and so on.

Good bacteria can be built and come from things that are fermented like yoghurt, and so on.

What about the ‘trend’ of gluten-free diets of people who don’t have the disease?

It might be annoying to have someone say “I can’t eat gluten” and not really mean it because they CAN eat gluten, but they just have a specific weight loss or dieting plan to not eat gluten.

That part, I can understand would be irksome.

To hear someone say so glibly that they can’t eat something (when they can) that is in fact a real disease that other struggle with, can be very frustrating to hear.

…..but many people see that the net result in the end has been the positive uptick of industries coming out with gluten-free items.

Because of this “trend” of eating gluten-free items popping up on health sites as a way to lose weight, become healthier, whatever, it has sparked a whole new industry that is only finally starting to take off.

Isn’t it a bit sad though, that it took some fad diet of not eating gluten for these products to come on the market, versus the demand from people who actually suffer from the disease, trying to figure out what is safe to eat or not?

So what about you? Thoughts?


  • Kandice

    There are 4 people in my family. 2 have celiac. The other 2 (myself included) are gluten intolerant. We all react differently to accidental ingestion. My husband went undiagnosed with terrible symptoms for at least 8 years.

    It was hard at first. We had to educate ourselves, then our extended family and the kids’ schools/friends. It’s much easier now with mandatory food allergen labeling and certified gf foods, and more options coming to market. The hardest part was the initial education phase, especially of young children who needed to be fully able to independently advocate for themselves.

    Also, Frankenwheat wasn’t around 50 years ago, or at least wasn’t as prevalent. IMO.

  • Mrs. Groovy

    It’s a tough disease. And I’m sure there are some who either won’t risk dining out, or just don’t want to deal with grilling restaurant staff about the menu. I’m not sure I’d trust them either. A long time ago I worked cater-waiter jobs, meaning I served meals at catered events. When it came time for coffee, naturally some folks requested decaf. We were told to put regular coffee in one of those coffee pots with the orange lid that was supposed to be used for decaf. And everyone was served regular coffee.

  • liteadventurer

    Two thoughts:

    1) Celiac is definitely a real, organic disease, but it’s rare. Most people who claim to be gluten free are hopping on the latest bandwagon and trying to lose weight. It’s fine if you don’t want to eat bread; just say you don’t want to eat bread and move on.

    2) My theory on why this is increasingly more common is due to the human interference with natural selection. 5000 years ago, these people would simply have died early in life. Same goes with people with bad vision, poor hearing, and other various illnesses with no treatment at the time which allowed those disadvantaged people to get more easily caught and eaten by the hungry tiger. We’ve invented all sorts of ways for people with serious illnesses to survive well into old age and pass their genes on to the next generation.

    • Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      I agree with #1 – I don’t like people using it as a pretend disease however…

      That is an interesting point about why it is more prevalent these days. It is true that people with diabetes and so on without help, would have certainly died sooner than with all the interventions we take to help prolong their life…

  • Steveark

    It is real but it only affects a tiny percentage of people. Very few people have any significant real food allergies yet the entire food industry markets to the fears of people who can literally eat anything without recourse.

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