Celiac disease is real. Gluten intolerance is probably just your imagination but may cause involuntary rolling of the eyes and spasms of skepticism in others
You know that friend of yours who will literally die if she eats any gluten? Turns out she probably wont. A new study has just confirmed what many of us have long suspected: the majority of people who feel the need to eliminate gluten from their diet dont appear to have any medical reason for doing so.
Over the past few years gluten has gone from being an unassuming composite of storage proteins to the biggest supervillain in the culinary world. Consumer studies have found that one in five Americans has reduced the amount of gluten in their diet and around a third of American adults are trying to cut gluten out. As food brands continue to latch on to gluten-free health claims the popularity of eating gluten-free only seems set to rise.
Whats not rising, however, are medical diagnoses of celiac disease, an autoimmune condition in which eating gluten means you might, literally, die. Indeed, this new research, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, shows that the prevalence of celiac disease has remained relatively stable over the past few years. And this isnt the first study to hint that maybe, just maybe, gluten intolerance is just in many peoples heads. A 2014 study out of Monash University concluded that non-celiac gluten sensitivity probably doesnt exist.
Of course, this doesnt necessarily mean that gluten-free-fakers dont have other gastrointestinal issues. Indeed, some of them seem to have a hard time digesting facts. Namely the fact that their digestive systems are entirely normal.
I am not part of the roughly 1% of the American population that suffers from celiac disease. However, Im afraid I have become decidedly gluten-free-intolerant. Every time someone tells me they are giving up gluten, I suffer from an involuntary rolling of the eyes and spasms of skepticism. Im not the only one. The popularity of gluten-free, you see, has turned into a punchline and its become socially acceptable to make fun of people who espouse it. South Park had an episode called Gluten Free Ebola, for example, and the Gluten Free Museum lets you enjoy famous works of art with the gluten photoshopped out.
But while skeptics may enjoy poking fun at the fact that many lifestyle gluten-avoiders have no idea what gluten is, sometimes we can be just as ignorant about the severity of celiac disease. Indeed, all the hype and hilarity about gluten-free cant be much fun for celiacs. On the one hand, the rise of gluten-free means a greater availability of decent food they can eat. On the other hand, everyone now assumes theyre a posturing douchebag who wants to make the life of restaurant staff a living hell. Their cause isnt helped by a vociferous Gluten Sensitive Troll Army, quick to respond to any potential criticism of the gluten-free movement with a slew of angry comments, often containing graphic detail of their bowel movements. Its never a good idea to feed the trolls, particularly if they cant handle their gluten.
Honestly, I feel bad about the authentic celiacs caught up in all this gluten-highfalutin, I really do. As a tolerant person I want to make sure that Im only mean about the truly intolerable. So whats to be done? How do we separate the genuinely gluten-free wheat from the chaff?
A cafe in Dublin recently came up with one potential solution. On Saturday the White Moose cafe updated its Facebook page, explaining: Guests who demand gluten-free food are required to produce a doctors note which states that you suffer from coeliac disease. Guests following a gluten-free fad, who dont even know what gluten is, can cop the fuck on and eat regular food like everybody else. The post has had 32,000 likes and 9,500 (mainly angry) comments.
The White Moose cafe was obviously joking. But I reckon compulsory doctors notes are actually not a bad idea. Indeed, Id go one step further and make emotional-gluten-support animals mandatory. There is a law of physics, after all, which says that the negative effects of an increase in food faddists can be counterbalanced by a corresponding increase in cute dogs. And whos going to argue with science? I mean, apart from the millions of people who think they suffer from something that science says they dont have.
If the above proves unacceptable, then deportation is also an option. Newt Gingrich suggested testing people of Muslim background to see if they believe in sharia; why not do the same for gluten-fakers? Being physiologically able to eat pizza but willingly choosing not to is clearly incompatible with western civilization.
Finally, I guess we could also all calm down about gluten and let people eat what they want without passing judgment on it. But I mean, really, wheres the fun in that?