“Low carb” options have gone the way of the dinosaur, and in their place, there’s a new dietary catchphrase: gluten-free. But for those with celiac disease and other ailments that make it difficult or impossible to digest the protein composite, gluten-free isn’t a hip new way to possibly improve your diet—it’s a necessity.
This spring, a pair of Senators introduced a bill to pass a resolution, making September 13 National Celiac Disease Awareness today. The resolution was passed in August, making today an exciting one for the celiac community.
Celiac, which is an autoimmune disease that causes a lifelong intolerance to gluten, is a very serious condition for those who suffer from it, and comes with a whole host of terrible symptoms and side-effects, many of which can be mitigated by eliminating gluten from one’s diet.
And while it’s great that so many more restaurants and manufacturers are offering additional options to those who can’t eat the stuff, gluten-free’s new found status as a fad runs the risk of making celiac and similar diseases seem less serious. Awareness for the disease itself, rather than the diet, as many have, seems like a progressive step. Particularly since so many with celiac disease, like The View co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck (whose book is pictured to at the left), go years without a correct diagnosis.
Within the gluten-free-by-necessity community, there are many who see the diet’s status as a trend as harmful—not just to those who need to follow it and may feel self-conscious about sounding like a fad dieter, but also to those who can eat gluten and, as a result, may be missing out on some pretty key dietary needs for little benefit. As one blogger in DC put it,
According to numerous sources, including my physician; pre-packaged gluten free foods are void of added items such as iron, calcium or vitamin fortified, on top of that there are a number of gluten free foods (bread, pasta, mixes, soups, etc.) that are ridiculously high in sodium. So giving up gluten when you don’t have to for medical reasons means you may be giving up vital nutrients in the process.
However, some gluten-by-choice eaters do have other reasons for opting our of gluten; many pastas, breads and other glutenous items are are full of non-complex (read: processed) carbohydrates, which offer your body next to no nutritional benefits. Limiting gluten intake in this way can serve as a healthy reminder to cut out excess sugar and other not-good ingredients—as long as you’re not subbing in sodium-dense gluten-free items.
Regardless of the reason you’re cutting or keeping gluten, remembering that for some, this choice is the difference between health and illness (or death) is important—particularly when jumping on and making comments about fads is pretty much a fad in and of itself.