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Gluten Free Diet - Legitimate Concern or Marketing Fad

I'm just a bit too leery about the recent hype towards it . 1 of out 1750 people suffer from Coeliac disease or wheat allergy. The symptoms are loose, greasy stools and difficulty in gaining weight.

If the symptoms were difficulty in LOSING weight, then maybe there is something sinister with wheat.

But it was one of the first cultivated grains that eventually led mankind to civilization. It has provided us with energy and protein for thousands of years...until recently in America, we seemed to have developed an overnight allergic reaction to wheat. What's even more annoying is the sky high premium gluten-free products go for.

Is it the same in Europe? Will French bakers substitute soy for their baguettes? Will Italians use rice flour instead of semolina to make pasta? What will the Belgians substitute for their 500 year old delicious unfiltered wheat beer recipe?

Some manufacturers label wheat like it's some sort of poison. It's categorized along with trans fat. I feel like wheat is being highly misrepresented in order to push overpriced products people don't really need.

Is it me or do you folks feel the same way? Flame me if you wish, but I still can't justify buying into all that hype. Wheat has fed us for thousands of years and I won't turn against it in favor of businesses profiting by pushing expensive alternatives.

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  1. There are certainly very legitimate cases of celiac disease that are probably very unpleasant for those who suffer from the disease.

    For the other 316,999,999 Americans the gluten free thing is an awful trend.

    6 Replies
    1. re: jpc8015

      Gluten free labels on flavored water products. Unreal.

        1. re: RitaLin

          And FAT-free, let's not forget fat-free. I don't know why GF is such a big deal for you. Companies want to sell their products, and they will label them with whatever sells best at any given moment.

          But that point's been made several times here, I think.

          1. re: linguafood

            I was just at Stop & Shop and they have a sale on "fresh low fat chicken", AKA boneless skinless chicken breast.

      1. If you do a search, there have been several posts on this topic hashed out over and over. Is the prevalence of celiac disease proper that great? Probably not, although Mayo Clinic and the National Institute of Health puts the numbers at closer to 1 in 141. However, there is more research now and greater visibility. Maybe there is something to it. Maybe it's only now coming to light with more research and awareness and now that we have a name for it and are looking for it, it merely SEEMS like it is more prevalent or it was there all along, but we never had a name for it. Additionally, some of the research is saying that part of the issue is due to cross-breeding of wheat types for shorter growing seasons and heartier wheat that is less susceptible to cold and blight and that the wheat of today is a lot different than the wheat of 50 years ago, let alone 500 years ago. If you believe in evolution at all, then isn't it just possible that we've created a more durable product, but in the process of doing so we created a product that our bodies have not yet evolved yet to tolerate? (Yes, I am also aware that that are other sources out there refuting this as well - maybe it's true, maybe it isn't, maybe it's only a partial explanation.) In the history of mankind there are millions of things that went unexplained until someone did more research and turned what we all thought was true completely upside down. Why can't this be one of those things that may be in the infancy of research? Think it's a fad all you want, but if you have a person experiencing autoimmune-like symptoms without explanation and experience drastic improvement after cutting out gluten, even if they aren't celiac proper, can you really discount that experience?

        I don't claim to be celiac, but I did an elimination diet to figure out my migraine triggers after suffering from migraines for 13 years. In doing that, I discovered a few...beets, for one (which is a shame because I love them). Part of the diet included eliminating gluten. After doing so, I went from having 3-4 migraines a week and headaches the remaining 3-4 days of the week to one migraine a month (usually hormonal, but sometimes certain lights trigger them). I went from having virtually zero pain-free days a month to rarely getting a headache or having to call in sick and nothing else changed - no medication changes, no changes in my home or work environment, no other significant changes in my diet other than cutting out gluten and the two other isolated triggers I discovered that were foods I rarely ate anyway (it's not like I went from eating crap to a healthy vegan diet - my diet is not all that different - just minus gluten). I've also experimented with eating gluten for several weeks and tracking how I feel and then going off. There appears to be a pattern. So poo-poo it all you want, but I think it's very short-sighted to write off something as fad when there are countless stories like mine and those with celiac disease proper experiencing life-changing results.

        I also want to point out that the implications of eating gluten for someone with celiac disease are far more reaching than loose stools and difficulty gaining weight. They are also not the same for everyone with celiac. Not everyone experiences weight loss - other symptoms include headaches, fatigue, joint pain, anemia, loss of balance and coordination, paresthesia in the extremities. I have a coworker who does have celiac who suffered for years with crippling joint pain being misdiagnosed first with rheumatoid arthritis and then systemic lupus erythrematosis and now is thriving and pain-free since receiving the correct diagnosis and being gluten-free. So if more awareness means that people who experience these debilitating symptoms get better labeling on food to avoid being crippled by their disease...then I'm all for it, particularly since the labeling can be iffy at best sometimes with wheat being a cheap filler and often hiding in products you would never dream of having wheat under not so obvious names. If you think it's a fad, don't follow it. No one is forcing it on you.

        54 Replies
        1. re: amishangst

          Agreed. It is a bona fide medical problem for some people, I feel certain, however, that there's a huge group of delicate flower/control freaks out there that want to feel "SPECIAL" and therefore like to torture restaurants and party hosts with their imagined sensitivities and demand not only special dishes, but rabidly modified versions of normally prepared dishes. They really piss me off. It makes the people with real allergies have a harder time via association with the Delicate Flowers.

          1. re: EWSflash

            I know it might seem odd that I'm arguing with someone who is essentially agreeing with me, but I have to wonder where your basis for "a huge group of delicate flower/control freaks" comes from. That seems more like an issue of attribution bias. Do some exist? Sure, although they would exist whether or not gluten-free was the "it" thing to be and it would be in all aspects of their lives, not just their diet, I'm sure. I see it sometimes in the vegetarian communities - people who make a stink about chicken in their salad, then eat soup made with chicken stock, or people who claim an allergy because it's just "easier" than to explain the real reason why they don't eat that food. These "special snowflakes" or delicate flowers you speak of are also just as apt to make a fuss about natural fibers over synthetic, X brand of laundry soap over Y brand of laundry soap, sensitivity to smells.

            Again, without hard numbers, this is just more confirmation bias on my part, but I rarely come across these "special snowflakes". When I do, they tend to be rather vocal, but being vociferous =/= a huge group, though it may give the appearance of one. If I truly think about the entire number of people I encounter and how many of those act in the manner you're describing? I honestly, could only maybe come up with one and it's kind of a stretch. I have maybe seen a couple of more online in various forums but in my actual day to day life not so much. Either that or maybe the flora in the Midwest is just heartier than where you are.

            1. re: amishangst

              Nope, it's much drier here, so therefore far less mold. We desert rats, most of us, anyway, are a tough bunch.

              1. re: amishangst

                As someone who was a psychologist for many years I can say that food related psychological issues are one of the most prevalent of any. One of the most common ways it is expressed these days is with food phobias, false allergies, etc.

                I'm not disparaging those with real food related medical problems, but there are a huge proportion of false to real food sensitivity/allergy sufferers.

                1. re: JMF

                  I'm allergic to brussel sprouts. Yeah yeah, that's it [imitating Jon Lovitz]

                  1. re: JMF

                    Had to go through the peanut "allergies" with a local school that my kid attended. The "problem" became so widespread that they banned peanuts. Of course, many kids smuggled peanuts in anyway, the the "allergic" kids traded for the peanuts, and no one had a reaction. Seems the kids were only "allergic" when the parents were around. Probably an extremely common phenomenon for those who seek exoticism and a false, supernatural sense of control over their lives in mystic food mumbo jumbo.

                    Too bad so many have a hard time understanding the placebo effect. I agree with he above post, and, BTW, I teach scientific method at a university.

                    1. re: law_doc89

                      One of our son's friend is supposedly allergic to treenuts. One time she was over at our house and ate some cake that had some treenuts (walnuts and pecans) and we only realized after the fact. She was fine. We didn't tell her Mom (who told us she's allergic). She also didn't own nor carry an anyphalaxic pen with her.

                      UNLIKE our son who is allergic to (only) peanuts, as diagnosed by an allergist at the hospital with the proper allergy tests. He's not gotten to the anyphaxic level but suffered shortness of breath and tightening of his airway with ingestions of peanuts in the past. He's also asthmatic. We have 4-5 Allerjects floating about in backpacks, in the cars, lunch bag etc. Food allergy is a real concern to those who suffer from it, but there are 'posers' out there too.

                      1. re: law_doc89

                        Interesting. I have been reading about false positives for nut allergies but still have a hard time figuring out what is appropriate in my daughter's school, with respect to the nut ban. AFAIK there are different interpretations.

                        For example, I am told that snacks that are not declared as "nut free" are fine, such as seed crackers (which I understand may contain traces during to shared processing facilities). Coconut is fine, but chestnuts are not.

                        I try to respect the need for truly nut-allergic children to feel safe, but also feel somewhat resentful that the majority of our family's favourite foods and snacks cannot be brought to school, and my daughter often ends up having to bring the "boring alternatives".

                        For example, we made delicious walnut bread, candied chestnuts, roasted chestnuts, almond cookies and madeleines (with almond flour) over the holidays, and none of that is allowed to school. What did I give my daughter as a snack yesterday? A single roasted sweet potato, lol.

                        Yes, I am ranting a bit here, but nuts are such a convenient, mess-free, spoil-free, low-cost, delicious, versatile and nutritious food group. Really curious what percentage of people in a typical school has a life-threatening reaction to nuts.

                        1. re: vil

                          In my son's grade 4 kids have severe allergies. One is peanut, the other 3 are variations of tree nut, peanuts in addition to egg and soy. That roughly 11%. Last list from the school noted aprox 6% of the student body had some kind of nut based allergy.

                          1. re: vil

                            I agree with you wholeheartedly, and am so glad that my beautiful son is A) only allegic to ibuprofin and bananas, and B) is 25, so that I don't have to go through those extreme food avoidances.

                            1. re: EWSflash

                              Good for you and your son! My gripe is mostly that "tree nuts" is such a diverse collection (with species that actually belong to very different families), including lychees, coconuts, shea, acorns etc... With the growing incidence of "nut allergies", I am afraid that the possible resulting bans will pose increasingly restrictive limitations on what people can bring to school. For example, shea butter is the major moisterizer we use in our household...

                              And speaking of bananas, I read that chestnut allergy has a much stronger association with banana allergy, than with peanuts or other tree nuts.

                              1. re: vil

                                Interesting. I have some chestnuts in the fridge- do I dare test them on him??

                          2. re: law_doc89

                            And then there are those who have anaphylaxis. If you have ever seen someone have this type of reaction, I can't see how you would want to take a chance. Some also might have mild reactions to something and then sudden anaphylaxis that cannot be reversed. I have seen this twice once with an antibiotic and once with a latex allergy. I also have a friend who had anaphylaxis with cardiac arrest and she was resuscitated but they never knew what she was exposed to.

                          3. re: JMF

                            I certainly don't discount the relationship between physical health and mental health. They are often not discrete. There are cases where physically the pain cannot be explained or is out of proportion to the objective findings and perhaps it's a combination of physical and pain amplification from an underlying comorbid affective or anxiety disorder or a conversion disorder. I absolutely don't deny that and as someone who has a great number of both medical doctors and licensed psychologists in both my personal and professional circles, I would like to think I'm not entirely ignorant on this issue.

                            However, I do take issue with phrases like "huge proportion" and "huge group" without actual numbers to back that up. If you compare that the total number of people out there in the U.S. or North America or the world, this "huge" number of people is not a significant portion of the population. In the thousands (not hyperbole, I'll estimate just shy of 5000) cases of people with physical and/or mental impairments who have crossed my path, I can recall exactly 3 going to the lengths that you and several other posters have described without having an actual diagnosis of celiac or other allergies. And it's usually not just food, I see it under the label of "multiple chemical sensitivities" where no objective medical evidence supported such a thing. I have come across people who think their child's learning disorder can be resolved with a gluten-free diet and eschew all Western medicine. But of my experience, this is such a small percentage. What I usually see is a bunch of people frustrated by being in pain. Sometimes they are also depressed and it's often hard to tell what came first, the depression or the pain. But M.D.'s receive virtually zero education in nutrition. So these people try pill after pill and become more and more frustrated, particularly since some diagnoses like fibromyalgia are thrown at them because other than the 18 trigger points it's largely a diagnosis of exclusion - they've ruled out RA and SLE, etc. What I see most are not people eschewing Western medicine, but trying alternatives in addition to it. Is it really that hard to believe that there may be a correlation between what we put in our bodies and how we feel, good or bad?

                            I'm not saying that the people you describe don't exist. Or that there aren't the Gwyneth Paltrow's of the world touting colonics and cleanses and grain-free diets as the cure for all that ails you. But I disagree with the hyperbole of so many people being "manipulated" or "faking it". RitaLin's assertion that people are being manipulated...Are there some? Sure, it's always bound to happen. But I was just at the grocery store. Sneaking a look at everyone's carts I saw plenty of people putting bread, cereal, granola bars, and frozen pizzas in their cart. The fruit snacks I like clearly say gluten-free on the outside of the box. Despite three other people being in the aisle with me buying fruit snacks, no one else reached for the exact same brand of fruit snacks I did because they were just so dumbstruck and manipulated by the gluten-free label. When I went to buy yogurt, I saw at least two people put regular refrigerated cookie dough in their carts despite there being two options clearly labeled gluten-free on the front of the packaging right next to the packages they were buying. I work with approximately 125 other people. We recently had a holiday gathering. There was one who is lactose intolerant (easy to work around), one with nut allergies (easy to work around on this occasion), a few vegetarians by choice (easy to work around), one celiac, and myself who has never been formally diagnosed and don't claim to be celiac, but went about it in a controlled manner and have made the well-informed decision to make the food choices that I do because in my experience I went from having 1/30 pain-free days a month if lucky to having 29/30 pain-free days a month. If huge numbers of people were being manipulated, out of a group of 125 people I would think you would see more than 3% needing special accommodation.

                            1. re: amishangst

                              The "exotics" detract from those with real physical problems. It isn't just the mentally ill who are hypochondriacs, but the ignorant, also, who are misled by tabloid science.

                              1. re: amishangst

                                I think the bigger problem is that people DONT pay attention to food trends, fads, science, pseudoscience, etc. the obese people that continue to buy and eat foods that they know are bad for them. They know it because they can look in the mirror...they know it because they can count the number of pills they take for diet related problems.

                                I have a much bigger problem with that attitude and it is much more of a societal problem than people trying new ways of eating.

                                1. re: amishangst

                                  " But M.D.'s receive virtually zero education in nutrition."

                                  Not true, but good propaganda by naturoptorists.

                                  1. re: law_doc89

                                    I work with about 40 of them and all but one who went into a specialty focusing on it have communicated this to me. Are there some MD's who do? Sure, perhaps I, too, am guilty of a bit of hyperbole. There are very rarely absolutes. But it appears to be more common than not that nutrition is not studied in great detail or beyond cursory required courses unless they take additional continuing medical education credits in it to maintain their license.

                                    1. re: amishangst

                                      MD's only know the basics unless they are personally interested in it. I am in the medical field as well.

                                      I went to my doc (he's my age and fat) about a shoulder injury/ inflammation problem and asked him about an anti inflammatory diet. Blank stare. He said he could refer me to a nutritionist. I thought maybe because he was older he didn't have a clue.
                                      Then I went to the surgeon( also older and fat). Same
                                      conversation...clueless. Said I should take NSAIDs instead of doing any "woo woo diets".
                                      Then I went to another doc (young and thin, not too far out of school). Still clueless about diet and healing but gave me props for being in good shape "at my age" so he advised I keep doing whatever I was doing. More receptive to healing with diet alone though...he suggested I use "google" and check out more sports medicine sites.

                                      FWIW, I did heal myself with diet...no meds...no surgery. My older, fat doctor asked me how I did it. I think he is going to try to change his diet. I hope so, he looks like shit.

                                      1. re: sedimental

                                        More likely, your "injury/inflammation" healed itself as it was most likely self limited anyway. What was your injury? DO you know the difference between injury and inflammation? This is the problem with all anecdotes. You need controlled studies with proper operational definitions.

                                        BTW, this past year it was found that anitoxidants may actually make cancer cells resistant to cancer treatment as cancer cells actually accumulate antioxidants. Passing item you may want to know.

                                        1. re: law_doc89

                                          No. It didn't. I won't go into details, but I am a published researcher and work in the medical field and understand your concerns. I am satisfied with my results and so are my doctors who were flabbergasted with the results.

                                          The problem with media reporting all the new " trends" or possible new treatments for maladies, is that only a portion of the story is told. Only a very small part of the whole picture is viewed. Humans are fairly complex. They don't fit neatly into control groups. Educating yourself gives you the best odds of getting through a serious condition. Unfortunately, some folks are not able to do that. I was very fortunate.

                                      2. re: amishangst

                                        It is part of the curriculum, and perhaps many doctors would like to have had more exposure, but they get plenty in school. It isn't a;ways labeled as such, eg vitamins are taught in pharmacology, but it is a good propanganda line by naturopaths and businesses to get to the gullible, ignorant, and fearful.

                                        See:

                                        http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/m...

                                      3. re: law_doc89

                                        Really?my MD said she felt very poorly trained in nutrition at A very prestigious med school and always sends patients to a nutritionist

                                        1. re: magiesmom

                                          Having cooked for a heart-patient husband for 23 years I could not agree more that physicians often know little about diet. However, if you need help, go to a registered dietitian and not to a "nutritionist". The former is held to the standard of professional education required by state licensure and the latter is not. Anyone can self-describe as a nutritionist so if you consult one you run the risk of getting advice based on very sketchy training, if any, and faddy extremism.

                                            1. re: Querencia

                                              I have to disagree; dietitians professional dietary guidelines are bought by sugar and junk food manufacturers and are the polar opposite of heart healthy, or healthy in any way. A masters in nutrition from a school that bases coursework on actual science is far superior.

                                              Dietitiians are the folks who recommend starches and sugars as the basis of a diabetic diet.

                                              1. re: mcf

                                                This is so true. When my husband was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, we went to a dietitian at the doctor's office. She gave us various suggested meal plans. The recommended dinner involved two pieces of bread and ONE OUNCE of lean protein.

                                                Having read Gary Taube's excellent tome, Good Calorie, Bad Calorie, I knew this diet was a recipe for disaster. So I fed my husband generous portions of proteins and limited his carbs. He has done great! His blood work is so good that the doctor says his diabetes is cured.

                                          1. re: law_doc89

                                            Actually, it IS true. Most schools of medicine in the US require zero courses in human nutrition.

                                            1. re: law_doc89

                                              You will find very few physicians that incorporate nutrition in treatment of disease. Some will send patients to a dietician for diabetes or have a handout for a low fat diet for cardiovascular disease or order a generic nonspecific "heart healthy diet". I know of a scant few that would sit down and talk about the specifics to a patient. If they had a class in school, most have not added to that body of knowledge.

                                              1. re: law_doc89

                                                Curiousity begs me to ask what the purpose of sharing your link with me is?

                                                I am in no way touting gluten-free as a cure-all or appropriate for everyone. I'm not saying gluten is inherently unhealthy. I've never been to a naturopath (I have an appointment for my annual physical with my M.D. on Monday who very kindly prescribed all sorts of medications in an effort to control my migraines that never really worked that well, except for one that does work, but only after the migraine has started). For those of you who can eat bread all day long to no ill effect, I'm happy for you. I'm not going to stop you. I miss the days where dinner was a hunk of cheese and a baguette.

                                                I am saying that I think it's short-sighted to dismiss that there are people who have seen resolution to their chronic pain or GI problems by cutting out gluten, even if they do not have celiac disease. And maybe with further research we will discover a more concrete link between gluten and some health issues or a greater prevalence than we all realized.

                                                I guess I'm not big on food-shaming people in general though. If going gluten-free makes you feel good, then by all means choose as you deem fit. In everything, there will always be fads or trends - truthfully, I've seen far fewer people follow gluten-free to be trendy than I saw people switching from butter to margarine, or back from margarine to butter, or following Atkins a few years ago, or the grapefruit diet. Because gluten-free is hard and can be expensive. Gluten is in so many places. I constantly hear "Oh, I could never do that...I just love pasta/bread/whatever too much." One of the three people I am personally acquainted with who tried gluten-free in an effort to improve their migraines (for the record, three of the four of us saw improvement, two of us remain gluten-free) went back to eating gluten even though her migraines greatly improved because she couldn't make the commitment. She admitted that she's seen an increase in her migraines since starting back on gluten. She makes her food choices and I've made mine. So even those on a trendy bandwagon, if they are really committed then good for them. I suspect a high proportion will realize just how hard it is and go back IF they feel there wasn't enough benefit to it. It has no bearing on my life.

                                                In the meantime, greater awareness has led to clearer and more consistent labeling and greater choices for those who may otherwise be debilitated by celiac or sensitivities, which isn't something that the Atkins diet or grapefruit diet or even the vegans at PETA can boast about. Given that, I guess I can't get that up in arms about HINT water and Lays chip having gluten-free labels on them and I'm reasonably certain I'd have the same feeling even if I weren't gluten-free (I was a gluten glutton for a lot longer than I've been gluten-free).

                                                1. re: law_doc89

                                                  It comes down to the individual. I know several people who were "diagnosed" with Crohn's and various other diseases that their disease disappear when they stopped eating wheat. The most dramatic was my nephew with Crohn's and Rheumatoid Arthritis that became asymptomatic in a week and has remained so for well over a year. I could give you a rundown of his very objective symptoms but not appropriate here. He was on the highest doses of last ditch meds and he is now on no meds. It is cheap to try and if it works it can be life saving in some cases. If it helps one person why not try it.

                                              2. re: JMF

                                                Thank you VERY much for that vindication.

                                          2. re: amishangst

                                            I want to preface my comments by stating that I really am a sensitive and nice person, and it goes against every bit of good sense for me to post an opinion on such a divisive and hot-button topic. I do not want to hurt anyone's feelings or be insulting, and my comments are not intended to be rude or demeaning to anyone. I hope I have crafted my words such that even those who staunchly disagree can see that I didn't intend to be demeaning or disrespectful to them, especially those who feel they are afflicted with these conditions.

                                            My opinion only:

                                            The gluten-free issue is another way for people with mild psychiatric disease/depression/hypochondriasis to play the sick role, along with most cases of fibromyalgia, many cases of lyme disease, and others.

                                            While there are people with bona fide celiac sprue, lyme disease, and probably even fibromyalgia, large numbers of people with hypochondriasis who claim to have these conditions have convinced themselves they are sick, when in reality they are not (except that the symptoms are psychosomatic in nature).

                                            More of my personal observations (NOT scientific data):

                                            I've also noticed a very strong correlation between people who have these conditions and a severe mistrust of modern medicine and science, along with a nearly religious adherence to alternative therapies.

                                            I have also commonly noticed a poor grasp of logical rationale and the scientific method. For example, an absence of the understanding for the role of controls in experiments, and a general lack of understanding when distinguishing between the concept of *correlation* and that of *causation*.

                                            My observations are limited to relatively small numbers of people, and should be considered WEAK when compared to scientific data. Still, FWIW, they are my personal observations.

                                            1. re: alarash

                                              By no means am I discounting the disease. Im concerned about the irresponsibility of businesses profiteering from people without wheat allergy who for some reason believe that a gluten free diet is healthier.

                                              A gluten free label on a flavored water product!!!!
                                              Seriously? I mean, seriously?

                                              A gluten free label on LAYS POTATO CHIPS?
                                              Duh it's gluten free, potatoes were never a wheat based crop!!!! But they never talk about how the corn oil they use doesnt exist in its natural form and must go thru an artificial metabolic process to go from sugar to fat.

                                              I'd take gluten over corn oil any day.

                                               
                                               
                                              1. re: RitaLin

                                                Here's the problem with that. Companies are putting gluten in everything. We have a family friend and co worker who was diagnosed with Celiac's disease a year ago after losing forty pounds. She had suffered from digestion and sinus problems for years, but the weight loss was was extreme. She had been trying different kinds of elimination diets but nothing seemed to work. Finally, she asked her GI to consider Celiac's. They did a scope and confirmed that she had it. You lose weight when you have untreated Celiac's because the GI problems don't allow you to absorb much nutrition from the food you eat. Lays and Doritos don't have gluten but Pringles do. Most Chinese food in our area is out because the soy sauce contains wheat gluten. After six months of successfully eliminating gluten from her diet, she was rushed to the hospital because some idiot had decided to put a spoonful of wheat in the daal she ate. A gluten free diet is not healthy at all, especially if you're relying on processed food. Sure, companies are capitalizing on people's fear but easy and accurate labeling on food items beats having to learn by experience.

                                                1. re: RitaLin

                                                  Potatoes are not a gluten-containing crop... but unless you buy the unseasoned mega-plain potato chips, you're not JUST getting potato and vegetable oil - you're getting the mess of stuff they used to season it with. You're going to want confirmation that one of the additives isn't wheat. The same goes for any other modern factory-processed food. What else are they putting into it that's not obvious? When the list of ingredients is as long as your arm, it's very hard to tell.

                                                  1. re: Kajikit

                                                    This!
                                                    I agree that a company is capitalizing when labeling water Gluten Free, but there is so much gluten hidden in so many everyday foods. So big deal. At least you can easily spot the big GF print on a package. It is tiresome to even shop! After shopping, cooking and baking for my GF daughter for Christmas, I was freakin' worn out! How nice it was to grab a few bags of chips labeled GF with confidence. Even still, she had a minor episode with a food with wheat protien isolate in something I missed. I felt bad because I was being so careful.
                                                    As a person that doesn't "need" to eat GF, I am perfectly fine for the marketing hype around packaging GF foods. Minor issue to us gluten eating people...big issue for GF people.

                                                  2. re: RitaLin

                                                    1) The FDA requires disclosure of the big 8 allergens, including wheat.
                                                    2) It's not as dumb as you think to label something like water (particularly flavored water) as gluten-free. Vitamin Water contains modified food starch. Common sources of it are corn, potatoes, tapioca...and wheat. Before stricter labeling requirements, it was basically like playing Russian Roulette for a celiac and lots of calls to the company to inquire about where the modified food starch was derived from. Also, for those who are celiac, they can have a reaction from as little as less than a crumb - there is no safe amount of gluten for them such that it being processed in a facility where cross contamination can occur is too much of a risk for them, even if the product itself may seem to be inherently gluten-free by nature. Heck, there are some bath and beauty products (lip balm for instance) that contain gluten. There are toothpastes that contain gluten.

                                                    And the thing is, there are many different names it could go by that aren't obvious to the casual observer. Maltodextrin is used in so many seasoning blends and bouillon cubes and sauces - seasonings like you find on potato chips. And maltodextrin can come from many sources, some inherently gluten free, but often-times from barley which is not considered safe for celiacs. Looking at Lays BBQ chips. It says the maltodextrin is derived from corn (yay for g-free and disclosing where it came from, but that doesn't always happen), but it also contains malted barley flour, which is not safe for celiacs. Pringles, even just plain old salted Pringles contain wheat. To be certified gluten-free by the FDA it has to contain less than 10 PPM. So even products that seem like they do not contain gluten may be an issue, especially if they are manufactured in the same space as other gluten-containing products.

                                                    There have been minimal standards until recently for the labeling of these products. The EU is light-years ahead of us the standardizing of their ingredients and labeling of foods as gluten-free, vegan, organic, etc. Veg*ns in the US have had to deal with this issue for years because "natural flavors" doesn't necessarily have to disclose if those natural flavors are derived from an animal (and a shocking number of times it will be, even in items you wouldn't think otherwise...google "castoreum").

                                                    If it makes the lives of those who truly need it easier, why make it the source of such derision? There's a whole boatload of other stupid out there in the world that doesn't mean the difference between someone thriving vs. being crippled with pain for people to mock. It's not that hard to skim past the words "gluten-free" if it doesn't pertain to you.

                                                    1. re: amishangst

                                                      Great post amishangst. Didn't realize vitamin water could contain gluten :)

                                                      Non-celiacs don't realize how pervasive gluten is, nor how much of a problem it can be for so many people.

                                                      1. re: willyum

                                                        Just to be accurate, Vitamin Water and Smart Water ARE gluten-free, to the best of my knowledge. They contain modified food starch, but further inquiry with their parent company revealed that the modified food starch they use is not derived from wheat (though you couldn't tell that from their label). And the Canadian version of the site confirms that, though the US version of the site is pitiful in it's lack of information.

                                                        But, without consistent labeling standards, there isn't an easy way to tell that. Modified food starch could go either way (they could also change their supplier and use a wheat-based one at any time). To the best of my knowledge, they don't label it gluten-free though and since they don't it's always best to double check again with the company. From my time as a vegetarian, I learned that companies can and do change formulations or where they source their ingredients from with little notice or fanfare. Yogurt and fruit snacks that previous never contained gelatin in them before suddenly do, etc.

                                                        That's why I don't see the harm in consistent and clear labeling. In the case of Lays brought up by RitaLin, they make some that are gluten-free and some that aren't. It's not like they changed formulations or slapped a label on front of something that always was g-free saying "NOW GLUTEN-FREE", they are simply putting clear language to differentiate their products in the place where people are already looking for nutritional information, if looking at that is important to you.

                                                    2. re: RitaLin

                                                      Just like water labeling tells you it has 0% fat. How is that any different?

                                                    3. re: alarash

                                                      "The gluten-free issue is another way for people with mild psychiatric disease/depression/hypochondriasis to play the sick role, along with most cases of fibromyalgia, many cases of lyme disease, and others."

                                                      You are seriously not only courting flames and you know it, but you are extremely misinformed, along with your 40 doctor cohort, if one believes you.

                                                      I worked with the mentally ill for many years, food was the least prevalent primary manifestation in that population, though not infrequently a co-morbidity in borderline personalities. Clearly, you have not had the time, what with writing dissertations online about stuff, to actually read any valid assessments free of bias and smug self referencing.

                                                      1. re: mcf

                                                        Thank you mcf. I was too upset reading this casual comment to reply. As a matter of fact, I HAVE had anxiety issues including food phobias, but I overcame them. Now (YEARS later) I have pain issues and fibromyalgia and it's a very different kettle of fish. All the willpower in the world can not make me able to walk a single step more than my body is capable of managing... to bring it back to the original topic, many fibromyalgics are advised to cut out gluten, especially if they have intestinal/digestive symptoms, which are very common - among the battery of blood tests used for diagnosis, I was tested for celiac and it turned out that I have no need to avoid gluten. I was very glad because I don't need the added complexity in my life...

                                                        1. re: Kajikit

                                                          Without going into exhaustive medical history, I had FMS for a brief time in the 90s, so bad that sitting in a car while it was turning was painful. I was fortunate that when I gave up starches and sugar for other reasons, my FMS went away literally overnight, gone the next day, and has never returned. I'm sure it's different for everyone. The pain was severe; there must be a special place in hell for those who'd dismiss as hypochondriasis or mild to moderate, other people's real suffering.

                                                          1. re: mcf

                                                            Some people react badly to various foodstuffs, and that's all there is to it. It doesn't have to be a medically diagnosed classic 'allergy' for something to disagree with your body - the trick is figuring out which/if any foods you need to avoid. I don't have the patience for an elimination diet and I don't believe it would make any real difference to me (aside from maybe my waistline) but I cut out caffeine and MSG over a decade ago because I tend to have palpitations and an overly-fast heart rate and stimulants are not good for me. It doesn't hurt me not to drink sodas or coffee etc. I did 'sugar-free' and 'dairy free' for a few years on a naturopath's advice, but I didn't have the self-discipline to stick to it long-term and it didn't really make any difference to my health either way. I didn't even lose weight because I was eating savoury snacks instead of sweet ones! Nowadays I don't need to strictly avoid dairy unless I'm on an antibiotic.

                                                            1. re: Kajikit

                                                              For me, it was insulin resistance (and turned out to be long undiagnosed diabetes). I'd developed mid life onest of PCOS which led me to cut carbs and a host of bad things I never connected to each other went away, overnight, literally the next day. And back then, came storming back. The symptoms were bad enough to reinforce the diet changes in my case. I felt awful for the first few weeks, though, til my system made a complete adjustment hormonally.

                                                      2. re: alarash

                                                        I am probably one of those people who currently irritate you in that I currently have an "undiagnosed gut problem" and as a result am on a mostly dairy free/gluten free diet. Compared to someone with a true allergy, I do not keep dairy free or gluten free - but I do know that the more I adhere to the diet the better I feel while my situation is sorted.

                                                        That all being said - I think that there is research that shows that in wealthier countries gluten intolerance is on the rise. This article from the NYTimes a year ago mentions a study looking at an area on the Finnish/Russian border I think is interesting. It doesn't have any definitive answers - but does emphasize that the wealthier countries are, the more likely populations are to have gluten problems. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/24/opi...

                                                        1. re: cresyd

                                                          Very interesting article. Fascinating points on the correlation between wealth (affecting hygiene) and the incidence of celiac disease versus fecal-oral infections. About how the dreaded Helicobacter pylori appears to be negatively correlated with asthma and celiac disease, but in exchange for a higher incidence of ulcers and stomach cancer.

                                                          To me it is also significant that the article points out that a higher bifidobacteria count appears be negatively associated with gluten intolerance etc.

                                                          1. re: vil

                                                            Yeah - the article really stuck with me as basically saying "something's up - but what exactly..."

                                                            I think that the specific trendiness of gluten-free eating specifically as a means of weight loss is something likely to pop up with any kind of elimination diet. Cutting out a large amount of potential food choices from someone's diet (carbs, gluten, etc) will often help someone initially lose weight and so that's likely to expand the trendiness of any diet.

                                                        2. re: alarash

                                                          Re: alarash

                                                          I would just like to point out that, also from my personal observation, there are people who had such negative experience with conventional medicine, resulting in significantly harmful, and sometimes even irreversible, consequences in their health. These are also people who understand science and experiments. They simply ended up finding a way that works for their health, in "alternative" medicine.

                                                          There are bad apples in alternative medicine, undeniably, especially because there is inadequate funding and interest to establish better standards, to further research to prove its efficacy. "Alternative medicine" is unfortunately often used as an umbrella term for everything that includes snake oils and the kitchen sink. It definitely takes someone with a clear and intelligent mind to be able to sort that out. Acupuncture WAS considered alternative years ago, but now is widely accepted as part of physiotherapy and pain management (although its application is way more than that and I bet it might be until another x number of decades before that is more widely understood and accepted).

                                                          1. re: vil

                                                            Yup.

                                                            I'm one of those people who have weird reactions to pharmaceuticals. Pain killers do not, generally speaking, work on me. If they do, they work for less than a year before they stop working altogether. Local anaesthetics don't work on me at all (dental work is, as you can imagine, a nightmare). Fluoroquinolones - the entire class - can kill me. Fluoride in toothpaste can kill me (okay, that one would take weeks, but still.) I have odd side effects, life threatening side effects, to general anaesthetics. As a child, I had chronic recurring strep throat and tonsillities, and no amount of antibiotics ever really worked all that well - I was on antibiotics I kid you not at least 90% of the time from when I was 5 until I was 15. I've been on more pharmaceuticals than the next average 50 people. And they just don't work on me like they do on everyone else.

                                                            In my case, a lot of that is because of a genetic collagen defect that I have which went undiagnosed for a very very very long time. Which, along with my weird drug reactions, causes a huge list of other health problems and chronic pain. That huge list of other health problems and chronic pain were also considered to be in my head until I got an actual diagnosis. Suddenly, it's real. It wasn't before, but now it is. Funny how that happens.

                                                            However, I respond very well to Ayurvedic medicine (traditional Indian herbal medicine). A lot of people in the west consider that alternative. I don't really care. It works for me, and that's more than I get from western pharmaceuticals.

                                                            1. re: LMAshton

                                                              Thanks for your account. I have never had any particular problems with modern pharmaceuticals, but have found that Japanese-style Chinese medicine (kampou-yaku) works very well for me, and also find acupuncture very effective in most cases. I have an open mind about it, and I think that's working in my favor.

                                                        3. re: amishangst

                                                          NO JUST NO.

                                                          Never did I attack the disease but rather the irresponsibility of food companies over using the gluten free label.

                                                          I'm sorry you're gullible to American media and marketing.

                                                        4. Welcome to Ch! Interesting screen name.

                                                          Many foods have been ingested for decades. That doesn't mean allergies or intolerance don't exist. If you have no issues with wheat don't "turn against it". Simple.

                                                          4 Replies
                                                          1. re: foodieX2

                                                            TY. I'm glad companies are producing alternatives for the people who actually suffer from the disease.

                                                            But I don't appreciate the manipulative marketing a lot of food companies execute to the non sufferers that believe gluten free is healthier. Gluten free water, gluten free potato chips, gluten free chocolate, gluten free milk... It's really shameless. None of those products are wheat based so putting on that label makes it redundant. More than anything, it's destructive because the more people see the gluten free label, the more they will believe that wheat is to be avoided.

                                                            1. re: RitaLin

                                                              I volunteer-assist a woman who is multiply-disabled and has multiple medical diagnoses. She has recently been medically diagnosed with celiac disease and we have been working on shopping and cooking tasks. Unless the item is labeled "Gluten-free" she simply does not believe it is. I can explain until I pass out that product X is gluten- free because everything in it is gluten-free but I am wasting my breath--- grasping the difference between summativity and nonsummativity is a complex level of thought that everybody isn't up for. So, personally, I am happy to see that label on every GF product. Yes, there are people out there who need to feel special and some of them do this with food. But I don't see that the labeling hurts anyone.

                                                              1. re: RitaLin

                                                                Are you aware of all the foods (and other products) that can contain gluten? Just to list a few that many people may not expect to contain gluten:

                                                                -Soy sauce
                                                                -Worcestershire Sauce
                                                                -Bouillon cubes
                                                                -Ketchup
                                                                -Pickles
                                                                -Hot dogs/lunch meat/other processed meats
                                                                -Licorice & hard candy
                                                                -Oats/oatmeal (often processed on the same equipment as wheat so is not considered gluten-free)
                                                                -Salad dressing
                                                                -Chocolate sweetened with "malt" (malt syrup, etc.)
                                                                -Potato chips (namely Pringles, as listed by an above poster)
                                                                -Body products including lotion, soap, sunscreen, toothpaste
                                                                -Medicine coated with liquid gel

                                                                My mother in law is celiac. She was sick for several years before her doctors finally properly diagnosed her, and she lost a lot of weight and was dropping to dangerously low weights before she started eating gluten-free and was able to start gaining weight again. After being GF for several months and starting to feel better, she decided to "test herself" and ate a piece of wheat toast. Within an hour, she vomited violently. She spent the next 3 days feeling like she had the flu; she had no appetite, ran a moderate fever, and had body aches and chills. She spent the following 2 weeks feeling lethargic and just generally under the weather.

                                                                Even a small amount of contamination is no trivial matter for her. Her daughter took her out for dinner on her birthday. They went to a steakhouse and she ordered steak. They both specified for GF meals and told their server that MIL was celiac and very sensitive to gluten. Nothing obviously gluten was served on the table, like bread, but after the meal my MIL still became ill. Perhaps a seasoning on the steak contained gluten; perhaps the cook handled some bread before handling her food and didn't wash his hands in between. Even that small amount of contamination can trigger her reaction.

                                                                So, having GF labels on things is very helpful for her to determine if things will be safe for her to eat.

                                                                1. re: Maggiethecat

                                                                  Ya Maggiethecat, you pointed out the real problem for people with celiac. Gluten is in many unexpected places. My wife would add mayonnaise to your list and earlier it was pointed out that even vitamin water can contain gluten in the starches used in the flavorings. You can find the posts mocking 'gluten free water' but it can be a problem with additives.

                                                                  A lot of people say they are on a 'gluten-free diet' and mean they are giving up bread and other wheat products, but probably unknowingly are still eating smaller amounts of gluten. This diet is actually very similar to the "low carb diet" popular a few years back but not truly 'gluten free'.

                                                                  Real celiacs like your mother-in-law (and my wife) are eating a totally gluten-free diet by necessity and not by choice, and the critics of this diet should make that distinction.

                                                                  Hopefully threads like this can educate those who scoff and mock the faddish aspects.

                                                            2. My wife began losing weight quickly about 20 years ago ... she would eat up to 4,000 calories per day and was still weak and dropping the pounds, with serious gastro-intestinal distress. It got so bad we thought she might die.

                                                              After several doctors couldn't figure out the problem she checked in to the Mayo Clinic where they ran a battery of tests and an internist noted that the villi in her intestines were flattened, meaning she couldn't absorb nutrients from food, no matter how much she ate. This is a symptom of celiac disease or extreme gluten intolerance.

                                                              Once she stopped eating any and all foods that had gluten in them (you would be surprised how it sneaks into things like vinegar or ketchup or other seemingly innocuous foods) she began recovering and after a few months she was back to her normal weight and doing well.

                                                              So in her case she could have died from malnutrition had a smart doctor not figured it out. Nowadays more doctors are aware of celiac disease and she would likely be diagnosed much quicker, but not back then.

                                                              I know it's a popular fad diet now but for some people it's very serious. She isn't bothered by the fad dieters, feeling that the more people who ask for gluten free products the wider variety of things will hit the grocery market shelves.

                                                              So when we book a restaurant I always make sure to let them know that she is gluten-intolerant and that it's not because she's on a fad diet, but because she has a medical problem. She can eat small amounts of gluten now without getting sick so we're OK dining out.

                                                              To answer your question, for some it's a fad but for those who are celiac it can be a real problem.

                                                              You asked about Europe ... we were in Spain in October dining at five of their Michelin-rated restaurants and everyone was very knowledgeable, with excellent GF breads and substitutes for menu items with gluten. I think there's a law that protects celiacs in Spain. And one of the Italian restaurants we're checking out has GF pasta ... so I think Europe is pretty aware of this.

                                                              3 Replies
                                                              1. re: willyum

                                                                If you dont think food companies are exploiting the false fear people WITHOUT this disease have (which is my concern in the first place...companies exploiting, not the people who suffer from it) then yes, the Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus and Easter Bunny are very real

                                                                 
                                                                1. re: RitaLin

                                                                  I don't see the problem. There are an estimated 2 million people just in the US with celiac who can use these products. Having more products available only helps them (I know, I'm married to one). The higher the demand the lower the prices. I know my wife can find many more good GF products now than she could 15 years ago.

                                                                  There are several million more fad dieters who don't really need these products but for whatever reason they still buy them. It's their money so who cares if that's how they chose to spend it? Better that than the colonic cleanse or the Paleo diet or whatever else is trendy this year. In two years many of them will be off to something else. It's easy to poke fun at this demographic but they aren't doing anyone harm.

                                                                  The food companies are simply taking advantage of a market niche. Welcome to capitalism.

                                                                  1. re: RitaLin

                                                                    You know, I had a similar reaction to you to this exact product when I first stumbled upon it- reacting in shock to the price of water with this labeling, lamenting the state of our food industry and culture. And I'm myself both vegan and gluten free (as one who went through extensive allergy testing, endoscopies and colonoscopies to confirm bloody, greasy stool was connected to my eating wheat).

                                                                    However, not a few moments later, I noticed that the flavored, nutrient enhanced Water I was about to purchase from another company was Not Even Vegetarian.

                                                                    Products labeled "water" that are not vegetarian and the demand for such products is perhaps a bit more disturbing to me than how the industry is capitalizing on, and to a degree fetishing, a legitimate medical issue.

                                                                2. Yes, it is a legitimate concern.
                                                                  And yes, it is also a marketing fad. Manufacturers are exploiting the "trend" towards gluten free and charging a premium for those products.

                                                                  There are several popular diet programs such as the Paleo diet that are supporting the gluten free trend.

                                                                  I am not discounting the potential health benefits that people have experienced from eliminating gluten, just agreeing that manufacturers are exploiting this market niche.

                                                                  7 Replies
                                                                  1. re: Ttrockwood

                                                                    This is the best way to describe it. Good job.

                                                                    Too many on this board ignorantly chalk it up to a fad, when for many, the attention has brought a real intolerance to light. I for one am an example of just this. I am certainly not celiac, and continue to eat gluten with a watchful eye to quantity.

                                                                    I would challenge any doubter of it to make an honest attempt to cut it out of your diet for 3 days. It's not easy, but I can guarantee that you won't regret it.

                                                                    1. re: redips

                                                                      In order to support a friend I went without gluten for thirty days. It was a huge pain in the butt. I felt no better or worse. That is because, I guess, my body processes gluten fine.
                                                                      I never have returned to eating as much bread, which I think is good as less carbs might be better, certainly it has taken some unwanted pounds off.
                                                                      I just report this because there seems to be a thought that gluten bothers everyone.

                                                                    2. re: Ttrockwood

                                                                      Trockwood, I doff my hat to you for having put it so perfectly.

                                                                      1. re: Ttrockwood

                                                                        Indeed, the exploitation is quite shameless. And it's disturbing because it creates fear in the minds of people who don't suffer from the disease.

                                                                        I know not everyone will agree with me that marketers are going over board with the gluten free labeling. Those marketers have done their job well.

                                                                        1. re: Ttrockwood

                                                                          >> "Manufacturers are exploiting the "trend" towards gluten free and charging a premium for those products."

                                                                          This is basically true, but I would point out that the true celiacs have ALWAYS been paying a high premium for GF foods. The recent upswing in demand, fueled by the wanna-be Gwyneths on a fad diet, have actually helped the true celiacs by greatly lowering prices and increasing the number of products available.

                                                                          I asked my wife about this since she has been diagosed celiac for 20 years. She said back in the bad old days there were just a few mail order companies where she could get GF wheat/oat/flour substitute products (I think Amy's, Pamela, maybe kinnikinnick from Canada). Back then many of these had poor texture and taste, and were very expensive.

                                                                          She said in the past five years she's noticed three big changes ... the flavors and textures are much better, the prices are much lower because of the higher demand (still a premium over non-GF, but much less than before), and that almost anything she wants is available off the shelf rather than via mail order.

                                                                          So to celiacs like her it's a good thing there are more products available. The fad dieters are not really hurting anyone (they are just likely paying extra for something they don't need) but they are really helping the true celiacs.

                                                                          1. re: willyum

                                                                            I' m so glad she is benefitting from this! I completely understand-i've been lactose intolerant for 20+ yrs and am thrilled at the variety of non dairy milks now available.

                                                                          2. re: Ttrockwood

                                                                            Thank you, Trockwood, for a succinct response (and with any luck, closure) to one of the most obnoxious pissing contests I've seen on the CH boards.