The Problem with Fad Diets: The purpose of Gluten Free

First off: please NEVER EVER EVER EVER say you have an allergy when you do not! I mentioned this as a pet peeve in an earlier post but I cannot stress this enough. Taste is subjective and if you don’t like something just say so. Saying you have an allergy will mean extra preparation will go into making your meal which puts both you and the kitchen behind schedule. It also makes it more difficult for workers to recognise the severity of people who actually have allergies. Nowhere is this more apparent than with the recent ‘gluten-free’ fad.

Gluten free foods are primarily in place for people who have Coeliac Disease which is approcimately one in seventy Asutralians. “In people with coeliac disease (pronounced ‘seel-ee-ak’ and spelt celiac in some countries) the immune system reacts abnormally to gluten (a protein found in wheat, rye, barley and oats), causing small bowel damage. The tiny, finger-like projections which line the bowel (villi) become inflamed and flattened.”

Coeliacs who continue to ingest gluten will permenantly damage their bowel system and cause themselves sever discomfort through a number of unpleasant symptoms. Due to this people with any level of Coeliac disease must adhere to a strict gluten free diet to offset the symptoms. This is problematic for this disease in particular as a “gluten-free meal can be contaminated by just a few crumbs from gluten-containing food.” Note contaminated food is not always easily identifyble. Bread based products are always dangerous but sauces, some sweets and even lunch meats have the potential to contain gluten.

Meanwhile, the health benefits of gluten-free food for non-Coeliac’s are being picked apart and identified as a bit of a marketing fad. “The research says unless you are coeliac, there is no link between gut disorders and gluten,” and therefore no specific benefit to eating that way. But it does effect the smaller portion of the population with Coeliac Disease.

The most dangerous side product of this fad is the casual nature in which people treat the disease. Due to such a small number of the population actually having the disease companies are able to be less careful with their products. Servers and Wait staff are inclined to associate ‘gluten-free’ with the fad rather than the disease. I cannot tell you the number of times a customer has gotten annoyed at me for explaining the possibility of cross-contamination or mentioning that the sauce or another topping contains gluten. I have been asked to skip it, rudely cut off and asked to please stop saying the same thing every time because it doesn’t apply to them. More disturbingly than that I have had Coeliac customers inform me that no one has ever told them this before and they were unaware of the added risk in their meal.

In summary I have two things to ask of you when going gluten-free. If you are doing it out of preference not necessity politely say it at the beginning or put up with the verbal disclaimer each time because other people are doing it to protect their health. For those of you with Coeliac disease TELL YOUR WAITER! If they do not recognise what Coeliac is then explain it – insist on no cross-contamination. You are not being a diva you are protecting your health! Unfortunately until the brunt of this fad blows over you’re going to have some extra difficulties to contend with.

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5 thoughts on “The Problem with Fad Diets: The purpose of Gluten Free

  1. As someone with a celiac diagnosis, I totally agree with you and I hate this fad. I oftentimes get treated really poorly in restaurants. Waiters act put out and annoyed that they have to accommodate me which is really frustrating. It’s not like I want to get sick from eating small amounts of gluten.


    • I am glad to hear you agree though I am sorry about the hassle this fad gives you. Unfortunately, the fad has meant that so much of the food put out has to be treated carefully for no reason that the people working start associating it with ‘hassle’ rather than ‘necessity’. That being said as I mentioned above an alarming amount of workers don’t know about Coeliac disease at all! All I can say is that I hope that it passes soon and no one gets ill because of it. Good luck dining out I hope your experiences become a bit more friendly 🙂


      • Thank you! At this point, I live in a country where gluten free is nonexistent and I mostly just cook at home. Once I’m back in the US, I’ll be seeking out gluten free knowledgeable restaurants once again.


  2. I agree! I actually have food allergies and celiac disease. I always tell my waiter or waitress about both, and then ask to talk to a manager or chef. If no one knows about celiac disease, then I don’t eat at the restaurant. I just feel more comfortable that way. 🙂


  3. As someone with Hashimoto’s disease, I’ve been advised to stay off gluten to avoid autoimmune flare-ups. When waiters look at me skeptically when I say “gluten-free” it makes me really annoyed and uncomfortable. I had a server ask if I had Coeliac and when I said no, he challenged me on my meal choice and complained about all the extra preparation he’d have to do “for no reason”. Well, I’m sorry but Hashimoto’s is a real disease and I have a real reason to eat gluten free, even without the Coeliac card. The problem is nobody knows what Hashimoto’s is and I sure am not going to stand around all day telling them about and why exactly I can’t eat bread (this goes for a lot of people with food issues). I say (and as someone who has worked in customer service) it is the waiter’s job to give the customer what they want and not to question or doubt the legitimacy behind it.


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