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There are two types of gluten intolerance

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In the past two or three years gluten free lifestyle and food have gone quite mainstream.
Unbelievably so when you compare it even to just ten years ago. Now most groceries have a gluten free aisle, and most restaurants have on their menus a clear sign for what will work and what will not. It’s not like trying to order vegan food in the 90s when in so many places you’d get a dumb stare and then “vegan” chicken or sausages on your plate (at least if you didn’t live In New York, San Francisco, London, or other fancy place).

I feel this change is good. When you’ve gone gluten free, now you find more foods that will work, and if there is a food you miss, the chances are someone has made a gluten free, wheat free, even grain free version of it. And it probably won’t taste like cardboard or be that awkward to ask or order.

But in these same two or three years, I have realized there are two types of gluten intolerance.

“The real” celiac disease and just gluten intolerance that is milder than the above? No, that’s not what I mean. I mean something completely different.

The first intolerance is when a person is intolerant to gluten. Whether it’s a doctor-diagnosed case of celiac disease, or an allergy that requires one to carry an epipen for the event of an exposure to gluten, or if it’s any other disease or feeling unwell that would or could get better with a diet consistently gluten free. Rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, eczema, psoriasis, acne, depression, really bad depression, PMS, problems getting pregnant…. And many others. Many of those have in common that your body is inflamed, and since most people don’t get only an accidental amount of wheat every few months, the cause of the inflammation or pain may well go undetected for years or decades. Maybe once your doctor had decided you have rheumatoid arthritis, there is no motivation to find out if the condition would actually resolve or at least ease with dietary changes (and finding a causal relation between some foods or the lack of them in a diet and health or the lack of it isn’t exactly something the medicine industry wants to explore. Medication is more profitable). So if in the case of a non-gluten-related-or-diagnosed malady or unease one was to clean their diet… Well, in a few weeks or months you would see if it did something for you. Give it a month – a reasonable time to see if there is any change in your mood or health, long enough to notice, and yet short enough that if there isn’t, it’s not a big deal if your average lifespan is close to eighty years.*

What if what you or someone close to you have suffered for decades would just ease when you went gluten free? Try it.*
I suspect my dad would have benefited from it too. Before he died, he had four decades of severe rheumatoid arthritis (which was medicated with many things, most of which had terrible side effects, and in the end it still didn’t help, so he needed joint replacements), and psoriasis (for which the medicines from rheumatism surely were not helping) among other maladies. If there was ever any thoughts or tries to change his diet to see if that would have helped, it must have been when I was really young, and those thoughts were probably killed by my mother. I wish we had had a chance to try. So while I can’t vouch for him, I could vouch for myself. Pain and depression (let’s just leave it vague like that) are much rarer now.

But back to the two categories – all of those are still in the first category. Any case where being gluten free helps, whether you’d die of the exposure of it or if it just helped you get rid of that acne, lose fifty pounds that haven’t melted even after years of dieting, or if it’d help you get rid of suicidally bad PMS.

The second category is for gluten free intolerance.

You read that right.

In the past three years I’ve seen and heard (mostly in the Internet) of (usually people who are on a gluten free diet themselves) some rather odd thoughts about others going gluten free. “It’s only for those who have a real medical condition, like a doctor-diagnosed celiac disease” is one of the most common things to hear. Yes, “only people with real celiac disease should eat gluten free foods. You people eating gluten free foods is bad for everyone else“. Uh? Sure, since now having more selection and easier availability is so bad. “It’s not for everyone – often the gluten free foods have more calories and will not help you lose weight.” “By leaving out wheat, you will keep your body from getting all the vital nutrients it needs.” (Shouldn’t that be one of the arguments for not having wheat? You could actually eat some more nutritious food instead)

Clearly other people going gluten free is bad for these gluten free intolerant people. Like in the grocery store when you have more than one type of pasta or bread to try, and when the gluten free store brand pasta costs $2 a packet instead of that fancy $14 a packet fancy brand one. Or in a restaurant where you don’t get that awkward blank stare for asking if this or that item on the menu can be prepared gluten free. What is in the change that is so bad for you? Not being so special any more?

Think of these gluten free intolerant views with any other dietary terms and you see how much sense they make.

“Only real diabetics should drink sugar free sodas.”
“All artificial sweeteners should be used only by those with type 1 diabetes. You, healthy people, drinking and eating foods sweetened with artificial sweeteners is bad for everyone!”
“Only fat people should eat diet foods or have lunches that are marked light.”
“Only morbidly obese people should select from the light menu at the restaurants! You normal weight people eating light foods is hurting everyone!”
“Only real Jews should eat kosher foods.”
“Only real Orthodox Jews should eat kosher foods – you shiksas ordering a kosher meal is hurting everyone!”
“Only Muslims and pregnant women should avoid alcohol in their diet.”
“You are not a Muslim or a pregnant woman; your refusal to drink is bad for everyone!”
“Only those with real doctor-diagnosed lactose intolerance should drink lactose free milk, or water with their meals.”
“You are not lactose intolerant! You should be eating cow milk with your dinner instead of that water or glass of wine. You not drinking cow milk is bad for everyone!”
“Only those deadly allergic to peanuts should eat peanut free foods.”
” only Hindus should eat vegan food. You are not a Hindu – you eating vegan food is bad for everybody…”

Imagine hearing any of these types of statements in any of these other cases?
Yep, that’s how they would sound like if anyone actually said something like that.
Fortunately I have not yet met a single person telling how all sugar free items should be for diabetics only.

So y’all of the second category, fake a gluten free, lactose fre, sugar free chill pill without traces of peanuts or shellfish. Live and let live. Or enjoy what you are having and let others enjoy their foods as well without turning to a raging vegenazi every time someone else orders your fancy foods.

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* If you need medical advice, ask your doctors. If you don’t like what they tell, feel free to shop around until you find a better one.

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Author: UnuhiNuiʻi

"Oh, I see" (not literally). Accessibility user and advocate.

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