is gluten free really a “fad diet?”

Copyright (c) 123RF Stock

is gluten free really a “fad diet?”

Copyright (c) 123RF Stock

I sat down to write this blog post after watching The Project last night. They ran a story on gluten free diets which left me with smoke coming out my ears, I was so frustrated.

The story’s main point of discussion was about whether people following a gluten free diet were victims of a “fad.” Yep, here we go again.

To its credit, the story also highlighted the need for coeliacs to be served food which is free from cross contamination. Believe me, we need to raise awareness of this. I grew up in a family where 2 members had coaliac disease. I’ve seen what can happen if highly allergic people have even a crumb of gluten – hospital visits, extreme pain, symptoms that last for weeks… I get it. I really do.

However, the story then went on to infer that if you don’t have coeliac disease, then you probably won’t benefit from a gluten free diet. Yep, I just got lumped in the “fad” category.

What a load of bullshit. Sorry, but it is.

Have these people not heard of the other types of gluten sensitivities out there?

Newsflash, Channel 10 – you can test negative to coeliac disease and STILL have a gluten allergy or intolerance which can seriously affect your health!

Firstly, let’s look at gluten allergy. This can cause a similar response as coeliac disease, where the immune system gets heavily involved. Symptoms can be rapid onset, and include hives, breathing difficulties, and digestive symptoms, including vomiting, reflux and diarrhoea. It’s a serious condition. These people won’t necessarily test positive for coeliac disease. But what they’re going through is no fad.

Then, you have gluten intolerance. This is where the body doesn’t digest gluten terribly well, often due to a leaky/unhealthy gut. Symptoms may take longer to set in, and are very broad in the way they manifest. Common complaints include bloating, flatulence, diarrhoea, constipation, headaches, foggy brain, mood swings, depression, weight gain, low energy levels, joint pain, eczema and skin breakouts. Sound like a fad to you? I didn’t think so.

And what about fructose malabsorption? This is another medically recognised condition, where gluten containing grains, particularly wheat, can cause nasty digestive issues. Should these people be made to feel like they are just following a trend?

And before anyone comes forward with the old “pseudoscientific” tag, I should point out that all three of these above conditions can be tested for – that’s right – with tests that you can get done at a doctor. (More about that in a blog post soon – it’s too long to mention it all here.)

Why are people so determined to “debunk” a way of eating that has helped so many? That’s a tough and complicated one. We’re delving into psychology, culture and mindset then. But for now I’ll just say this: While some are out attacking and trying to “disprove” the benefits of gluten free diets, some of us are out there giving this “fad” a go, experiencing the benefits for ourselves, and sharing the results with our family and friends (and in this case, you, my lovely reader). We are the ones that are cutting edge, the early adopters, willing to try it out now, rather than wait for a doctor or scientist to tell us that it’s been proven in a large scale double blind placebo controlled trial. We use our instincts and exercise judgement and care, in the hope of becoming healthier.

Do we do it to “feel special” or get attention?

Hell, no!!! Do you honestly think I LIKE saying no to all the foods I used to love? My husband (Surly Jim) works at one of the best cafes in the region. He brings home their legendary sourdough loaves for himself, freshly baked, sometimes still warm. Do you really think I’d knock that back in order to feel special? Do you think I want to turn down dumplings in Chinatown? Cake at parties? The occasional pizza on a weekend with mates? Do you know what would make me feel really special? Being able to eat all that stuff for a day and NOT feel sick. But you know what? Having food intolerances has forced me onto a path of healthier eating and living. And I’m grateful for all that it’s shown me.

Since giving up gluten, I’ve personally experienced the following:

  • clearer skin
  • no more foggy brain
  • less mood swings
  • bloating is gone
  • tummy pains have gone
  • candida problems have gone
  • immune system has improved
  • joint pains have lessened
  • no constant runny nose
  • no tonsillitis
  • no chest infections
  • my energy levels have increased
  • and I haven’t had antibiotics for about a decade

Yes, fads come and go (Lemon detox, anyone?). But gluten free diets are sticking around. Wholefood diets are sticking around. Juicing, smoothies, organic food… they’re staying too. Choosing real food over processed junk is not a fad, it’s an intelligent and educated choice.

So, The Project: If avoiding gluten makes me feel better, why should I be be labelled as a flaky fad-follower? Whose business is it whether I eat gluten or not, and why are people sooooo determined to prove to me that I SHOULD be eating it? I’m not coeliac, yet giving up gluten has changed my life and improved my health out of sight. So please forgive me if I continue with my gluten free ways, and I would appreciate it if you didn’t label me as a “fad dieter” in the meantime.

  • Ros
    Posted at 21:26h, 07 May Reply

    Jules, I couldn’t agree with you more! I get so frustrated with people who think they know everything! I am completely gluten free because i suffer similarly to you and am now much healthier than most people i know. This is a serious issue that affects a huge percentage of the population. Its no fad!

    • Jules
      Posted at 21:39h, 07 May Reply

      Thank you Ros! What concerns me the most is that “bad” press like this has the power to stop people from trying a gluten free diet. We need to keep encouraging people to try healthy, allergy free diets for so many health conditions. Imagine a world where a gluten, dairy and sugar free diet was the first line of treatment for IBS, chronic upper respiratory problems, skin conditions, fatigue, etc. How many people would be spared unnecessary drugs and medical procedures? That’s the world I want to live in!

  • CHloe
    Posted at 01:37h, 08 May Reply

    Agree completely! I’m so sick + tired of having to explain to people (friends, family, shopkeepers, complete strangers!) how gluten makes me feel. I should be empowered by my eating choices, not having to explain it time and time again! Love your stance on food/not eating certain foods as our medicine – people should be more concerned about what to take OUT of their diet first before they add IN things like medicine to try and fix it! I’m in Turkey at the moment, and my god, it’s been so hard what with all the Gozleme, Pide, Kebabs, the list goes on, and I won’t pretend that I’ve been perfect, but every time I chow down on a $2 kebab I’m reminded of why I don’t eat gluten – sigh! Great post! 🙂

    • Jules
      Posted at 09:22h, 13 May Reply

      So true, Chloe. I’ve seen people go under the knife and take drugs for complaints that I’ve seen resolved in others just with the right diet. Sad really, and so unnecessary. Oh, and Turkey sounds HARD!!! (Maybe don’t go to France either, lol!) xo

  • Marion
    Posted at 06:37h, 13 May Reply

    Jules, yes agree a great post thanks for the sharing and caring . Strict vegetarian/vegan a natural diet is the only way for me and mine and definitely – NO gluten !
    To our health 🙂

    • Jules
      Posted at 09:17h, 13 May Reply

      Good on you for putting your health first, Marion!

  • Jo
    Posted at 08:41h, 13 May Reply

    Fantastic article Jules, thank you!
    Bread and pastry have always been my favourite foods – now I can’t eat them and am tempted at every corner knowing that they will just make me feel terrible.
    I have IBS and can’t eat wheat and a variety of other things – impossible for people to grasp.
    I wouldn’t ever want to wish something bad on someone… but it would be nice if the fad shouters could experience how bad a sandwich/bowl of pasta/pizza etc etc can make some many people feel just for one day!

    • Jules
      Posted at 09:16h, 13 May Reply

      Thanks for your comment Jo. I’ve seen plenty of fad shouters who aren’t exactly glowing with health and wellness either – overweight, pale, dark circles under eyes, headaches, snotty noses, etc. It’s sad that they (and often their kids, who are being fed 3 serves of wheat and dairy per day) have to suffer because they aren’t ready to try something a bit “leftfield”. And stories like the one featured on The Project aren’t exactly going to help the situation. The best advertisement for a gluten/dairy/sugar free lifestyle is for us all to be out there looking super healthy, so that our friends ask “You look great! What are you doing differently?” So let’s get all out there and lead by example 🙂

  • Jan
    Posted at 16:41h, 13 May Reply

    I agree with you 100 percent I have leaky gut bloating etc I get fed up with having to explain to be people why I am gluten free

  • Pingback:Why is Gluten Free Still Considered a Fad? - Jules Galloway - Naturopath
    Posted at 12:13h, 10 October Reply

    […] was reminded of the time recently when this very topic was brought up on a top rating TV show (read my rebuttal here), in that instance it was labelled a “fad” but the co-hosts. Weird… I thought the […]

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