September 27, 2010

Gluten-Free Is Silly

I've heard (perfectly healthy) people (who can regularly tolerate gluten) talk about how cutting gluten from their diets has made them less lethargic or crabby, but I wonder what's really causing the difference. It could be that they're just eating less, or eating more vegetables, or cutting back on fat and salt, or exercising more, or just experiencing a placebo effect. Tons of people who aren't normally affected by gluten have decided that gluten is the devil and must be avoided at all costs. Look around in the grocery store: gluten-free brownies, gluten-free pizza crust, even gluten-free bread!

Granted, if you have celiac disease you probably don't want to die... but this isn't about that 1% of the American population, it's about the rest being silly. My dad's girlfriend is all about gluten-free; when my sisters were living with them they complained about there never being any food around. While there was always food around, it was either raw vegetables or gluten-free (not exactly easy to prepare on the run and not exactly tasty). They complained gluten-free pancakes didn't taste good, and I scoffed at them and suggested they suck it up for the free food. While I was visiting I made some Trader Joe's gluten-free brownies, thinking if it's from Trader Joe's it must taste good. Not true! That pan of brownies sat there all weekend... no one, not even my dad or his girlfriend, ate them (highly uncharacteristic of my dad to refuse brownies).

Don't search for images of food when you're hungry or craving sweets.

Which leads me to the word of the day: uncharacteristic. Except for those with celiac disease, people are generally fine with eating gluten. True, it's a relatively recent thing for our bodies to learn to accept in terms of intestinal evolution, but you may have noticed humans are pretty hardy little buggers; if we've been A-OK with it for the last 10,000 years, why has the last year or so been so tough on our little tummies? Because it hasn't! We're just fine with eating gluten, but celebrities and fad diets have told us otherwise and now a quarter of US adults are buying everything gluten-free.

But there's a giant glitch: gluten is a naturally occurring protein in wheat, barley and rye. You know what else comes from wheat, barley and rye? BEER. True, there are gluten-free beers available, but just try going into your regular bar or restaurant and ordering one. I would love to see someone order a gluten-free pizza crust ($5 extra) and a Bud Light. How silly.


  1. lots of gluten-free baking mixes are gross :(
    (the betty crocker ones are actually pretty good though)
    a celiac who does her baking from scratch

  2. A ton of the kids I work with are on gluten free diets because parent's think it affects their autism. I don't really think it makes a difference, but generally they say it decreases their hyperactivity. Gluten has been linked to different brain functions, some people say that gluten makes you more spacey, less able to focus. None of this is scientifically proven.
    In case you're interested...