NFCA President and CEO Alice Bast addresses the gluten-free fad diet and its effects on people living with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.
The following op-ed from Alice Bast originally appeared on the Huffington Post.
Gluten. It’s everywhere we turn — from our packaged foods to the Internet headlines, there’s no shortage of talk about gluten and a diet free of the sticky protein.
Every time I see an article talking about celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity (“gluten sensitivity”) or the gluten-free diet, I hold my breath. Sometimes, I don’t even realize that I’m subconsciously bracing myself for the possibility of reading misinformation on a serious autoimmune condition, celiac disease. A condition I happen to live with.
One of the latest articles, “Dear America, Quit Flipping out About Gluten,” accurately covered celiac disease but ruthlessly ridiculed everyone else who is cutting gluten out of their diet. Author Albert Berneko quipped that “‘gluten-free’ has become a kind of health-mindfulness merit badge, an artifact of our Puritanical conflation of self-deprivation and virtue — like how ‘anti-vax’ is used to indicate a variety of take-no-prisoners parental vigilance, or ‘natural birth’ is used to indicate empowered, anti-establishment toughness, or ‘gamer’ is used to indicate virginity and loneliness.” To that I reply (in my best James-Dean-Rebel-Without-a-Cause-Impression), “You’re tearing me apart!”
Dramatic? Maybe. But, 83 percent of the people with celiac disease are undiagnosed. Instead of driving people away from eating gluten-free, we should be encouraging them to get tested to see if they actually have an undiagnosed and serious autoimmune disorder before taking the gluten-free diet for a test ride.