A few weeks ago I was in line at my grocery store checkout, and had several packages of the store’s gluten free pasta waiting to be rung up. The man in front of me noticed my gluten free foods, and asked if I’d been tested for gluten issues or if I was just eating gluten free foods to lose weight? (Geez, thanks.)
I told him that I had an ALCAT blood test, had tested positive for gluten sensitivity, and got vicious headaches when I ate gluten. In addition, I’d been cooking gluten free foods for my mother-in-law who has celiacs for 13 over years now. “Well,” he said, “You know, most people in this country don’t have a problem with gluten. It’s just a fad.” And then he walked off in a huff, miffed that he couldn’t have an argument with me.
The young man at the cash register was aghast at his rudeness, but I just shook my head because it was more of the same nonsense that so many of us who avoid gluten free foods – or who have food sensitivities – have to deal with.
Hoping that you can be better prepared if such a scenario arises, here are 5 myths about gluten free diets and some tips on how to respond to critics of gluten free diets.
Myth 1: A gluten free diet can help you lose weight
Since many gluten sensitive people suffer gas and bloating or even inflammation after eating gluten, eating a gluten free diet may give them an appearance of initially losing weight. Other people after giving up foods with gluten like breads and pasta and substituting them with vegetables, fruit and lean meats, may find they lose weight.
However, if you’re substituting regular bread for gluten free bread, you’ll find that you may GAIN weight. Compare labels of your favorite gluten free pasta or pizza dough to the regular versions and you’ll be shocked to find that the gluten free version contain a lot more calories. That’s because the binders and extra ingredients manufacturers use instead of gluten add many more calories to the gluten free foods you’re eating. It also may be why a piece of Udi’s Gluten Free bread is a lot smaller than regular bread. They want to keep the portion size the same – 1 slice – as well as the calories.
Tip 1: When people ask you, “Are you on a gluten free diet to lose weight?” Reply: 1) You think I need to lose weight? Geez, thanks! OR 2) No. I’m on a gluten free diet because foods containing gluten make me feel ________________ (bad/headachy/give me a rash/give me a tummy ache, etc.)
Myth 2: Gluten free diets are trendy
All I can say to this is THANK GOODNESS! Since I’ve been cooking gluten free for over a decade, I remember how hard it was to find gluten free breads and mixes, even at health food stores and online. Now every grocery and discount store has gluten free foods and restaurants have gluten free menus. It’s wonderful.
Tip 2: When people say, “You’re only doing a gluten free diet because it’s trendy.” Tell them, “Well, the trend has finally caught up with me! I’ve been doing this for X years now and feel so much better. And now I can actually order a gluten free beer at a restaurant!”
Tip 3: When people say, “You’re only doing a gluten free diet because it’s trendy.” Tell them, “I wish it wasn’t trendy. Then I wouldn’t have to pay $2 extra for the gluten free pasta!”
Myth 3: No one has gluten sensitivities
Actually there are three kinds of “sensitivities” to gluten:
Per the Celiac Disease Foundation: “Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that can occur in genetically predisposed people where the ingestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine. It is estimated to affect 1 in 100 people worldwide. 2.5 million Americans are undiagnosed and are at risk for long-term health complications.” The tTG-IgA blood test screens for celiac disease antibodies. If test results suggest celiac disease, usually a biopsy of the small intestine will be done to confirm the diagnosis.
A food allergy to gluten that can trigger the immune system to produce massive amounts of the chemical histamine that leads to anaphylaxis, which could cause the throat and esophagus to swell, cutting off air from the lungs. Or it could cause hives, skin rashes, vomiting, and other non-life-threatening reactions. Skin prick or blood tests can be done to test for food allergies.
Or a food sensitivity that causes chronic activation of the innate immune system and gives rise to inflammatory processes. This inflammation can be linked to countless chronic conditions including indigestion or heartburn, obesity, fatigue, joint pain, headache, depression, arthritis, canker sores, chronic respiratory symptoms such as wheezing, sinus congestion or bronchitis, and chronic bowel problems such as diarrhea or constipation. The ALCAT blood test can be used to test for food sensitivities.
Tip 4: When people tell you, “No one really has gluten sensitivities.” You can tell them you’ve been tested and indeed you do have a sensitivity to gluten. Or if you haven’t been tested, that your doctor has advised you to avoid gluten because she suspects a gluten sensitivity issue and you’re doing an elimination diet.
Myth 4: The need for gluten free diets is all made up by the press, doctors, diet gurus, and food companies to sell stuff
This is just another way of people telling you that your gluten sensitivity is “all in your head.” Well, for me and others who suffer from headaches, migraines, and brain fog, it surely is! People don’t question nut allergies like they do gluten sensitivity, again because gluten free diets are considered a fad.
Tip 5: When your mother-in-law tells you at Thanksgiving dinner that your gluten issue is all in your head, say, “My physician and I feel a gluten free diet is the best thing I can do to alleviate my migraines (or other health issues).” Mentioning your doctor helps people understand your gluten sensitivity is a serious issue.
Myth 5: Everyone should be on a gluten free diet
Gosh no! Why would you want to be on a gluten free diet if you don’t have to? While gluten free foods have come a long way, they’re still more expensive. And no one has come up with a good gluten free croissant or baklava yet as far as I know.
Tip 6: Don’t be evangelical about your gluten free diet. After reading the comments at The truth about “gluten snobs,” it seemed the people who were the biggest critics were the ones reacting negatively to folks who over preached the benefits of gluten free diets.
Tip 7: Finally, there comes a point where you just tell people to mind their own business! It’s a personal health issue and you shouldn’t have to explain why you’re eating Udi’s Gluten Free snickerdoodle cookies for goodness sakes! (Besides that they’re delicious, of course.)
Learn more about living gluten free! Visit http://udisglutenfree.com/community
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Udi's Gluten Free. The opinions and text are all mine.