Jumping on the gluten free bandwagon to make a profit.

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I will just come out and say it.

I hate the gluten free craze / fad or whatever you want to call it.  I wish people would inform themselves. But I do tend to give them the benefit of the doubt (sometimes).  So I try to inform and educate.

But ….  I wish that when people are given information, THEY WOULD LISTEN!

The gluten free diet is necessary for people with certain medical conditions. It is scientifically proven to be required by people with coeliac disease and dermatitis herpetiformis. Non coeliac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) has also been accepted as a real medical condition that warrants a gluten free diet. Other people with medical conditions like Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and multiple sclerosis claim benefit from following this diet. Although it is still unproven to be effective, it is great that these people experience some sort of relief from their symptoms.

But I become impatient every time a perfectly healthy person claims that they are ”going gluten free’ just because.

Just because what exactly? To lose weight? To feel more energetic? To look more beautiful, young and hip?

Come on! We all have access to information. Too much so at times. Which brings me to the point of this post.

The only things that makes me cringe more than the gluten free fad itself are people who are out to make money by spreading misinformation.

A while ago, I came across an advert for an Asian restaurant that claims to be a Gluten Free Zone. There are adverts about this all over their facebook page. I immediately thought that it was a restaurant that served gluten free food only considering the use of Gluten Free Zone everywhere. I contacted the restaurant owner and was disappointed to find out that they have some items that are gluten free on their menu, but that we cannot take anything with batter (which are quite a few items), and noodles, and that their soy sauce is not gluten free. They do not have a dedicated kitchen or a dedicated preparation area for gluten free food. I still have not understood the boasting about being a gluten free zone.  I proceeded to try to give my standard advice regarding the importance of avoiding cross contamination and hidden ingredients and I decided not to dine there and not bother with the place again.

However, yesterday an this advert by the same restaurant was placed on a gluten free facebook group that I am a member of:

Going gluten-free has numerous health benefits, such as reducing risk of heart disease and certain cancers.

Although this irritated me, I decided to contact the owner privately to inform him that gluten free foods have benefits for people with certain medical conditions but there are no proven benefits for all. I explained that gluten free products tend to be high in fat, low in important healthy nutrients, like iron and vitamin B and lower in fibre. Since gluten is found in grains that are high in fibre like wheat, and fibre is important for cardiac health, I explained that eating gluten free products was not the way to go for a healthier heart. As for reducing the risk of cancer, this is partly true- coeliacs have a small increased risk of certain cancers and a gluten free diet is their only treatment option. But it does not prevent cancer in normal people.

The owner assured me that he would amend this, but actually did not. That is when I realised that this was the type of person I was talking about. He was out to make money out of the fad. I informed him, and my advice was ignored.

Another thing written on the restaurant’s page was this:

Some 30% of the European population carries the gene for celiac disease. Those people are more likely to suffer health problems caused by gluten. It’s best to avoid it!

So not only is this person uninformed, he is also giving dangerous advice. Yes, some 30% of Europeans carry the gene for coeliac. Most never develop it in their lifetime though. Only 1 in 133 people have coeliac disease. To get diagnosed one must be still eating gluten. So why advise people to avoid it?

Because the more people that avoid gluten, the more money in these people’s pockets. That’s why!

This is only one example of buisnesses that are jumping on the gluten free bandwagon. This is a huge industry, and a growing one. Although the high demand leads to more products and services for us to enjoy, it sadly also results in mockery of those who have a real medical condition that warrants this diet. It also results in unnecessary dietary restriction for perfectly healthy people.

How do you feel about this?

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Why we shouldn’t buy into all food fear campaigns.

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Just because something is written by a celebrity doctor or a popular blogger, it does not make it a fact.

There are many unsubstantiated claims about the harmful effects of certain foods in circulation. People claim that a particular food is the root of all evil, and blame it for all their ills based on the word of an author, blogger or the media. Not all health ‘’experts’’ who are promoting food fears are doing so in the best interest of the individual. Fear sells– and the more the fear, the more it is shared via social media, and the more the profit for the so called expert in terms of book sales, a service or a supplement.

Most of these fears are not supported by scientific evidence. Studies quoted as a backup to these claims are often flawed, and the ones that are validated are often misinterpreted. Although references seem impressive as first glance, if one actually reads even just the abstract of the study, it can be seen how the results are totally misinterpreted. It is becoming common to make extreme assumptions from research to fuel fear-mongering tactics.

The people who make these claims know that fear is a strong emotion and it can be used to steer people into making emotional rather than reasoned choices.

This is happening with so many foods, but in this article I will deal with just two subjects that are irking me right now- the effects of gluten and the query that corn contains gluten.

1. Gluten is poison!

Let me start with the ever increasing fear of gluten. I will say it time and time again. The only medical conditions that are scientifically proven to require a gluten free diet are coeliac disease, non coeliac gluten sensitivity, gluten ataxia and dermatitis herpetiformis (coeliac rash). There are people with other medical conditions like auto immune thyroid disease and autism that claim to benefit from a gluten free diet however current research does not yet support these claims. I suggest that these people should follow the advice from their medical team regarding the matter. However, many perfectly healthy individuals are choosing to eliminate gluten from their diets based on little or no evidence other than testimonials in the media, and books with no evidence based reporting. The apparent benefits of eliminating gluten are endless and some of the claims are beyond belief.

These are some comments I received after an article I wrote that highlighted the medical reasons for which people need to follow a gluten free diet. These people somehow felt insulted and felt the need to educate me because I said that experts agree that no benefit has been found in excluding gluten from one’s diet when no medical condition warrants this.

  • Gluten is inflammatory for all … Allergenic to some.
  • Medical professionals have been telling us for years that we should not be ingesting gluten.  I don’t understand why everyone is so offended by people trying to be healthier. Even if you want to call it a “trend” I’d say it’s a pretty progressive one.
  • Gluten causes intestinal and joint inflammation, the gas, the groggy feeling all over, the inability to think well after consuming. This isn’t a fad! The gluten free diet is a form of educating yourself on what your eating and how it affects your body.
  • Yes, it is generally an intelligent idea for healthy-minded human beings to avoid gluten.

But I am saving the best one for last, because a celebrity doctor was actually mentioned.

  • This chick who wrote this is a whiner and is missing the entire point of gluten free eating, which is to avoid a myriad of symptoms from eating gluten ranging from skin problems, inflammation, heart disease, and of course coeliac disease. She’s not a doctor, and I certainly take the word of cardiologist Dr. William Davis who wrote the book about gluten and its problems, over this whiny chick.

I am all for people living a healthy lifestyle and preventing diseases. If anybody eats healthy unprocessed foods, increases their intake of natural foods rich in nutrients and fibre, and couples this with regular exercise, they will definately help to prevent diseases like cardiac disease, diabetes 2 and stroke, as well as a myriad of symptoms. But sadly, the gluten free diet tends to be lacking in fibre, iron, calcium, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, and folate if one is not careful. And gluten free products are packed with sugars and preservatives.

As for the claim that a gluten free diet can prevent coeliac disease, all I can say is absolutely not! For coeliac disease to rear its ugly head, one must have the specific gene or genes, and it often requires a trigger. Yes, gluten must be in the system for the auto-immune reaction to occur, but the person must be genetically susceptible in the first place, and not every person who has the gene actually develops the disease. A gluten free diet is the treatment for coeliac disease.

For those of you who are not familiar with Dr William Davis, he is the author of the New York Times bestseller, ”Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health”. Since this was written by an actual doctor, people automatically trust that what is written is gospel. To read more about why this book is exactly what I am talking about in this piece, read ”Wheat belly, busted” http://noglutennoproblem.blogspot.com/2012/03/wheat-belly-busted.html

2. Corn contains gluten and corn is not suitable for coeliacs!

First of all, corn (maize) that has not been contaminated is ‘gluten free’ in the sense of gluten that is known to affect coeliacs. Corn contains a substance known in agriculture as “corn gluten,” which isn’t the same gluten we refer to with regards to gluten intolerances. Outside of agriculture, the term gluten refers to gluten contained in the grasses wheat, barley and rye. It is the related proteins in these three grains that give rise to the peptide sequences that are capable of triggering the auto-immune response of coeliac disease. So to say that corn contains gluten is actually not correct when we are not speaking about agriculture.

Some coeliac disease patients who are established on a strict gluten-free diet still suffer from symptoms. I wrote a post about this last January titled ”Do you still suffer from symptoms of coeliac disease even though you follow a gluten-free diet?”.

https://candiesglutenfreeland.wordpress.com/2014/01/03/do-you-still-suffer-from-symptoms-of-coeliac-disease-even-though-you-follow-a-gluten-free-diet/

I suggested that before refractory coeliac disease is suspected, there could be other possible reasons for still feeling unwell. These include the possibility of gluten cross contamination (even corn is often contaminated with gluten), different sensitivity to gluten (some people cannot tolerate the recommended limit of gluten),  secondary causes like IBS , due to associated auto-immune conditions and due to symptoms unrelated to gluten like other food sensitivities.

An article by   Ortiz-Sánchez et al (2013) states that the lack of response could be related to other dietary ingredients, such as maize, which is one of the most common alternatives to wheat used in the gluten-free diet. It has been documented that some maize prolamins (zeins) contain amino acid sequences that resemble the wheat gluten immunodominant peptides. A 2012 study published in Plant foods for human nutrition,  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22298027 , showed that in some coeliacs, as a rare event, maize could induce a coeliac-like immune response by similar or alternative mechanisms to those used by wheat gluten peptides.

This is useful information for the follow-up of some coeliacs who remain unresponsive to the gluten free diet, but this does not mean that all coeliacs cannot tolerate corn. If anybody with coeliac disease is doing well on a gluten free diet, please do not be alarmed by these claims. Just because a coeliac has another food intolerance does not mean that all coeliacs do! The same can be said for maize. This study is very useful, but again it is being misinterpreted and is being applied to all coeliacs by the media.

Final Note.

There are so many other claims being made about different foods that I could go on forever. Sadly, it is often perfectly healthy people who buy into these claims and limit their diets for no reason. Moderation in everything and healthy eating is the key, unless one has a medical condition to warrant such a dietary elimination.

Sources:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22298027

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3820067/

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It’s just coeliac disease. Why worry?

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”It’s just coeliac disease. Why worry?”

This is what I was told by my gastroenterologist this morning at my follow up visit when I asked about whether I can test if my daughter has the coeliac gene.

We have all heard dismissive comments about coeliac disease from friends, colleagues and even family members. I have been told that a little bit of gluten will not kill me by a restaurant owner. I have been labelled a fussy eater by others. But to be told that I should not worry about coeliac disease by a consultant gastroenterologist is infuriating and disappointing.

I wanted to give the dear doctor an earful about the difficulties we face on a daily basis. I wanted to explain how frustrating it can be when people pass our diet off as a fad or trend. I wanted to let him know about the worries we face when dining out, the planning involved in going on holiday, or the constant need to scrutinise labels and watch out for cross contamination. He should know that we agonise about associated auto-immune conditions, consequences of late diagnosis, and the severe health consequences if we are not careful with what we eat.

I wanted to tell him that I worry a little every day.

But all that came out of my mouth was:

”she is just a child. It is harder for children”.

I do not know why I felt the need to control my emotions. After all, his remark was unnecessary and insensitive.

These comments are not helped by the fact that some people follow the gluten free diet to lose weight or eat healthier, but then forget their special diet when the situation is not ideal.

A while ago, I posted the below ecard on my facebook page http://www.facebook.com/thecoeliachub.

Attitudes like this dismiss the severity of coeliac disease and turn it into a joke. Some might find it funny, but I do not. It all boils down to lack of information and awareness about our condition.

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Have you ever been told anything that makes you seem fussy or that makes light of coeliac disease?