Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
4 Sep

This Gluten-Free Thing Is a Really Overblown Fad!

Gluten FreeThis is a comment I’m starting to see more and more often. Go to any news article about gluten and the comment section will be littered with angry outbursts and outright vitriol for people who go gluten-free. Skeptical blogs love to trot out posts lambasting and ridiculing the “gluten-free fad.” And from what I can tell, nothing inspires a contemptible eye-roll like a person asking a waiter in a restaurant if they have gluten-free options. By some stretch of the known laws of cause-and-effect, the removal of gluten from someone’s diet apparently causes irreparable harm to people with knowledge of the decision and deserves unequivocal reprobation. Otherwise, why else would they care so much?

Well, gluten-free is clearly more popular than ever. More and more people are becoming aware of it. Google searches for “gluten” have been trending higher month over month for years, while the number of searches for “celiac” has plateaued. 30% of American adults are actively trying to reduce or eliminate gluten from their diets, according to a recent pollGluten-free dating sites are popping up to help gluten-free dieters match up with people who share their situation. The FDA’s just weighed in with some official standards for gluten-labeling. It’s everywhere, in other words. It’s arrived. It’s popular. And whenever anything gets popular, people immediately begin hating it. I’m not sure why that is, really, but it’s a known human phenomenon. Couple that with your already annoying co-worker droning endlessly on about this new diet she’s on, and I can see how someone might get a bit annoyed at all the gluten-free talk.

But is the vitriol really necessary? Does its popularity invalidate it as a legitimate therapeutic option for people with a sensitivity or downright intolerance to gluten? Should incurious cynics masquerading as skeptics be so quick to dismiss it?

Okay, maybe sometimes people can be a bit evangelical about avoiding gluten, and that’s unpleasant. And sometimes, people can’t give you a straight answer when you grill them on exactly why they’re avoiding gluten. I’d wonder why you felt it was your place to “grill them” in the first place, of course, but there is that subset of the population who takes umbrage at people making health decisions without conducting randomized controlled trials, being able to cite research by memory, and consulting the authorities.

I’ll also admit that the prospect of marketers taking over and appropriating the movement for their own benefit concerns me. For many people, a “gluten-free” label unfortunately bestows a cachet of health onto whatever processed food it graces. Potato chips? They’re gluten-free! Triple-chocolate brownie mud slide fudge-topped soy flour locust bean gum explosion? Gluten-free! Eat without guilt! Gluten-free bread that makes up for the lack of gluten’s texturizing power with a half cup of soybean oil? Go for it! Even foods that never contained gluten in the first place, like Cheetos, and hummus, are getting the gluten-free label to capitalize on the trend.

On one hand, it’s like the fat-free labeling craze, where you had fat-free cookies with twice the sugar, fat-free yogurt with thrice the sugar, fat-free salad dressing with whatever sorcery they incorporated to make that possible. And people ate those things with willful abandon, confident that “fat-free” was a synonym for “healthy” – and obesity rates continued to rise. Heck, the fat-free movement most likely exacerbated America’s obesity problem. I can understand why people who mistrust food marketing would be skeptical of gluten-free in general.

Of course, there is an important difference that distinguishes gluten-free from other faddish, market-driven diets: you don’t actually need gluten-free products to go gluten-free. The fat-free movement turned people off of legitimately healthy nutrient-dense foods like beef, eggs, butter, nuts, avocados, and olive oil just because they contained fat, whereas going gluten-free doesn’t remove a vital, essential nutrient or food. In fact, it can even increase your intake of nutrients, assuming you replace the gluten-containing foods with naturally gluten-free meat, fish, fruits, vegetables, and nuts rather than gluten-free junk food. In my experience, gluten-free consumers are more informed about health in general and do the former.

Amidst all the marketing speak, the gluten-free water, the gnashing of teeth upon discovering that the person you’re talking to avoids gluten, real science is being done, and any honest, literate person who looks at the available evidence on the health effects of gluten will admit that there’s something to this “fad.” And yet, I’m increasingly struck by the unwillingness of intelligent people to acknowledge the reams of research coming out every week exploring the effects of gluten on non-celiacs.

It couldn’t be that non-celiac gluten sensitivity is real and we don’t know how many people actually have it as the epidemiology is too new and underdeveloped. It can’t possibly be that gluten-free diets might reduce adiposity/inflammation via epigenetic effects (potentially reaching across generational lines). There’s no way that gluten free diets help non-celiac IBS patients who had no preconceived notions of gluten-free dieting (and thus no risk of being influence by the hype). And that case study of the child with type 1 diabetes going into remission with a gluten free diet? Let’s just sweep that under the rug and completely forget about it. Oh, what about the link between autism and non-celiac gluten sensitivity? Doesn’t exist. PubMed is a liar. Those autistic kids with GI symptoms who do respond positively to a gluten-free diet? They don’t, and the study you just thought you read is a figment of your imagination. All that hubbub about modern dwarf wheat being more allergenic than ever is also nonsense. Besides needing a stool to reach the top shelf, modern wheat is totally identical to older wheat and is no more allergenic.

Another popular canard is the “celiac is too rare for most people to worry about” one. Well, about that: the latest research out of Australia (a remarkably gluten-conscious country) shows that celiac is far more prevalent than previously thought and about 50 percent of the population carries the genetic markers associated with gluten sensitivity. Scientists used a combination of traditional antibody testing (which measures the immune response to gluten) with analysis of genetic risk factors for celiac to reach their conclusions. Not everyone with risk factors actually displayed gluten intolerance or celiac disease, of course, but the presumption is that some combination of environmental factors – inflammatory diet, damaged gut microbiome, etc. – could trigger its expression. (Epigenetics rears its head yet again.) Most people skeptical of gluten-free diets take an “either you are or you aren’t” stance on gluten sensitivity or celiac disease, while the results of the Australian research would suggest that it’s far more dynamic and that a large portion of the population can develop issues with gluten given the right (or wrong) environmental context.

Nope, forget all that research: it’s just people latching onto a fad. It’s just nearly a third of Americans going gluten-free because Miley Cyrus did it (I eagerly await widespread adoption of twerking by millions of soccer moms). It’s millions of people sticking with a dietary regimen that offers no tangible benefits and actually makes them actively unhealthier. And if there is a benefit, it’s all in their heads.

I guess it’s easier to pick on the easy targets and ignore the people with evidence. It’s easy to dismiss the entire movement because of a few misinformed trend-followers, but it’s dishonest. Look – I’m all for the denunciation of health fads and trends that don’t make sense and are based on spurious claims, but not everything that’s popular is bad.

My favorite thing is when “concerned health experts” caution against starting a gluten-free diet without talking to your doctor, paying for a test to determine a gluten allergy, and consulting with a registered dietitian. As if giving up bread, pasta, and cake for more animals and plants is a dangerous undertaking that requires professional assistance. As if removing gluten and feeling loads better only to feel terrible upon a chance reintroduction is an unreliable way to determine if you should go gluten-free.

Here’s why I welcome the explosion in gluten-free awareness, even if it all amounts to a whole lot of nothing for some people: it leads to an overall more healthy diet. Even if you can eat gluten without incident, even if your gut flora is able to cleave gluten in twain for easy digestion, you will still get more nutrients by replacing your grain products with more meat, seafood, vegetables, roots, and fruit. Sure, you’ve got the folks who go gluten-free by swapping in gluten-free versions of all their favorite foods and end up eating nutrient bereft diets full of refined alternative flours, but I think they’re in the minority for a few reasons.

First, gluten-free junk food tastes worse than the originals, although that’s changing as the market grows and food producers improve their methods.

Second, gluten-free products are generally more expensive than the regular products.

Third, in my experience, people who go gluten-free usually stumble into a Primal way of eating. The way I see it playing out is you have sweet potatoes or rice instead of rolls at dinner. You go with a real corn tortilla or lettuce wrap tacos instead of burritos. Instead of buying all that gluten-free bread that turns into dust at the slightest touch, you spend the money on meat and vegetables. You go out to eat at a burger joint and maybe they don’t have the gluten-free bun that day, so you have the patty on a salad and realize it’s not such a bad way to eat – and you stick with it.

I’ve read the studies. I’ve consulted the experts (who are actually studying this stuff). I’ve witnessed the incredibly positive changes in thousands of readers, friends, family members, and clients who gave up gluten (and most grains for that matter). Heck, I’ve felt it myself. Is there something to this whole gluten-free thing?

I’d say so, yeah.

What about you?

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. Good post!

    My two cents is this:

    I absolutely HATE being preached to by others on what I eat.

    I absolutely LOVE learning about choices and information about what I eat. There is a BIG difference.

    I eat Primal and intermittent fast 5 days a week. All my vital signs are excellent! Two days a week I eat whatever I damn well please. Pizza, bagels, ice cream – whatever.

    I really APPRECIATE you info and ideas. It has helped me a great deal. Please keep it up.

    Walter sasiadek wrote on September 4th, 2013
  2. The reason you will continue to see “gluten-free” appearring on the labels of products like humus, yoghurt, and yes even water :) is that many of these are made or packaged alongside gluten-containing foods, which could corss-contaminate them to the small degrees which celiacs find problematic.

    The European Union has issued new guidelines on this:

    “The European Commission, using recent internationally recognised scientific evidence, has introduced compositional and labelling standards (Commission Regulation (EC) No. 41/2009) that set levels of gluten for foods claiming to be either ‘gluten-free’ or ‘very low gluten’, which came into force in January 2012. These levels are:

    * ‘gluten-free’: at 20 parts per million of gluten or less
    * ‘very low gluten’: at 100 parts per million of gluten or less – however, only foods with cereal ingredients that have been specially processed to remove the gluten may make a ‘very low gluten’ claim.”
    (There’s a link from my name below this post to the UK govt’s page about this.)

    If you go to purchase a product that contains no obvious sources of gluten, yet is not labelled with one of those terms, you now know it’s possibly cross-contaminated – be it the food in a Pret A Manger that has no wheat in it, yet may be cross-contaminated because the tongs or serving tray have been in contact with wheat products, or the yoghurts or rice packaged in the same factory as a crunchy-wheat yoghurt pot, or a cereal packing company that also handles barley.

    So THAT’S not a fad, either – just a recognition of some people’s extremely high sensitivity to gluten. :)

    Patrick wrote on September 4th, 2013
  3. I’m tired of all the strange looks from people when I tell them I’m eating Primal and have cut out breaded products, etc. Always followed by, “you don’t need to diet, you’re tiny”. Since I began this “diet” at the beginning of summer, I no longer have indigestion, heartburn, nor am I bloated. Still working on joint pains in my lower legs/knees and fingers, but even that’s better. I don’t eat the “gluten free” marked products either and have found tremendous pleasure in grass-fed meats and quality veggies. I did have a cheeseburger this Labor Day weekend (w/bread) from Jake’s Wayback. Yum. Funny, I realize while that burger was great with all the fixin’s including the bread – I’m fine not eating it again for a long, long while. I try to spread my wisdom when someone asks and acts as if he/she are interested, but I also know when to keep my mouth shut to keep from getting utterly frustrated.

    Stephart mom to 3 wrote on September 4th, 2013
  4. I went to Panera today for lunch (I know, not the best choice, but forgot to pack lunch and had half an hour and limited choices…) I ordered the most primal thing I could find- soup and salad.

    The woman at the register asked me, “bread, chips, or apple?”
    Me: “Apple.”
    Cashier: “Ok, bread…”
    Me: “No, NOT bread.”
    Cashier: “What do you mean, no bread?”

    ***face palm****

    MarieB wrote on September 4th, 2013
    • Panera has a hidden menu! Ask for it at the counter. Just say “I want to order from the hidden menu” They will verbally tell you several Primal-ish items to choose from. I imagine they hide it because there’s no bread on that menu. And Panera loosely means “Bread Store” in Spanish and probably Italian as well.

      NateAtTheCenterOfMass wrote on September 13th, 2013
  5. I found this post to be really interesting. I became gluten free about a year ago, when I did a Whole30. I really didn’t expect gluten to be a culprit, but once I eliminated it and added it back in, the difference was clear. For awhile, I kept eating primal because I felt so great. Over time, I allowed myself to add more non-gluten grains (like rice) and gluten free baked goods to my diet (despite the fact that I knew that baked goods are never good for you- ha). In part, I want to blame the fact that gluten free is becoming popular and more options are available. If there are gluten free buns or pasta or beer or baked goods when I eat out, it’s like “Oh, I don’t normally have that, so I should indulge now” whereas, I’m content to stay grain free if there aren’t gluten free options like that. BUT, I know that it’s a matter of my own perspective needing to change. I’m realizing once again that I don’t feel great eating grains, even if they are gluten free, and so I’m wanting to eat grain free again (which is to your point about gluten free people finding the primal diet naturally). I’m getting back into the mindset of wanting to feel healthy more than I want that gluten free goodie, so the temptation isn’t even as strong. I’m glad, in general, that more people are cutting out gluten (I sure wish my husband would), and I’m glad that there are gluten free options for the occasional treat or for those who don’t (yet) want to be grain free.

    Janelle wrote on September 4th, 2013
  6. Spot on Mark.

    Susan wrote on September 4th, 2013
  7. Thanks for this fun read! I have to laugh at all the “haters” out there.

    Funny, I actually stumbled upon this website years ago when I was researching how many carbs to eat when trying to lose weight and then I started hearing about this “wheat and gluten thing”. I have PCOS so I’ve been researching for years and years to find natural alternatives to heal myself since the meds I had to take before made me so incredibly ill.

    I actually read a success story posted on this site about a woman that cured her PCOS by following the primal/paleo lifestyle and I gave it a whirl. I can’t tell you how amazing I felt even after a few days going grain free. I’m on the road to recovery now and I’ve been seeing results in a few months I didn’t see even after years of medication. The most important thing now is I actually have HOPE when I felt doomed all my life. It’s an incredible feeling.

    So yeah, I’d say this gluten-free grain-free thing has some substance to it 😉

    Thanks Mark!

    Steffanie wrote on September 4th, 2013
  8. Great article. I came to paleo after removing gluten and soy from my diet. I have horrible allergies and had a love/hate relationship with breads and pastas. The occasions that I ingested gluten or soy ended up with unpleasant results. Once I removed gluten from my diet, I noticed similar reactions to other grains and started investigating paleo. Going paleo was difficult after being vegan and fat free for many years. Been paleo since May and I’m not going back. I do keep it to myself as I have many vegan friends who don’t mind telling me that a healthy diet is lots of whole grains and vegetables. And the meat and fat will kill me. Interestingly, I have no GI issues, now. Also, lost a lot of weight and still losing on low carbs.

    bamboo wrote on September 4th, 2013
  9. I have a different situation. I am allergic to wheat. When I tell people that, they think I have Celaics disease or something and give me that look. I have heard/felt the eyerolls and sighs.

    When I eat wheat my nose clogs up, if it is mixed w/sugar I get asthma. Not to mention that drip down the back of my throat. It is just annoying enough to allow me to still eat it during the day and suffer at night as I try to breathe. The mind has a great way of compartmentalizing so I forget the aftereffects.

    That said, I went gluten free w/those substitute grains etc and it sucked. Here i am eating whole wheat and have to go to pasty rice bread subs. Getting the nerve up to go paleo – did it twice and it was excellent, still feel I have to suffer, I guess. Soon….

    Caroline wrote on September 4th, 2013
    • Caroline,
      I have that exact reaction to wheat and sugar! I don’t miss that drip down my throat at all!! Or all those sinus infections that I used to get.

      Stephanie wrote on September 4th, 2013
      • Same here, after reading “Wheat Belly” and other information I learned that wheat produces mucos…. ew….. after getting rid of that and later the rest of grains I no longer get the sinus infections and other reactions.
        Hopefully more in my family will start to eat primally or paleo and find relief from their health problems too.

        2Rae wrote on September 4th, 2013
  10. I’ve read that the reason for the surge in gluten sensitivity is that the grains are genetically modified. Also, grains are typically stored in silos where they become infested with mold and fungus which contributes to candida, and mycotoxins.

    Aaron Mann wrote on September 4th, 2013
  11. I simply avoid all the hoo-haw and eyerolling by stating “I don’t eat wheat.”

    Darleen wrote on September 4th, 2013
  12. Good nutrition is the best medicine. Im 73 and I had so many things going on with me that the Drs had me taking 7 Rx for the symptoms. I started eating the Paleo way and recently did the Whole30 and it was like God had healed my afflictions. Chronic backache went completely away. Diabetes went normal and off medication; Allergies disappeared; Rheumatoid Arthritis reduced Rx to half and painfree; headaches disappeared; lost 9 pounds in 30 days; and sleeping like a baby. A whole new life begins when you feed your body right.

    Larell B. wrote on September 4th, 2013
  13. I used to think it was a fad. Maybe it is a fad, but since I no longer eat much from the grain department, I feel a lot healthier and do not miss it. I can eat things contaminated with gluten without harm so it makes it easier to eat out. I just go ahead and order the burger and simply remove the bun and eat it with a fork rather than lament the lack of gluten-free options.

    Diane wrote on September 4th, 2013
  14. What strikes me is that those who feel judgmental about others attempts to discover health through dietary changes or experiments fail to understand that something drove people to experiment. Nobody who feels great and is thriving on the typical foods would seek to change their diet. Nobody jumps on an inconvenient “fad” who was already feeling fabulous and at peace.

    Joy Beer wrote on September 4th, 2013
    • +1

      Nocona wrote on September 4th, 2013
  15. Becoming allergic to wheat was the biggest blessing in disguise. I feel so much healthier without it–and my family and friends have noticed the change, and cut back on the gluten crap, too.

    Kathleen wrote on September 4th, 2013
  16. Ooh, lots of looong posts! THE one thing I’ve always been fascinated by, is the need to find a substitute for any item being avoided/eliminated. Gluten-free beer? Tastes like garbage. (Then again so does most beer!) Other than the dabble with the beer, I’ve not once deliberately looked for a gluten-free substitute for any gluten-laden produce. I either go without, or consume (and suffer the associated consequences), which, on the paleo journey, is happening less and less.

    Cody wrote on September 4th, 2013
    • My experience with the beer from a local brew pub shows that beer as the only grain in the diet, did not reverse the gains from long term grain free. It did reverse the weight loss to the tune of 40 pounds in 3 years. It might be significant that my GI track was well healed before I found the pub.

      Greg wrote on September 4th, 2013
      • As long as you FOUND the pub…I think that’s really the important point here.

        Julie wrote on September 4th, 2013
  17. I am one of those people who had IBS and stumbled onto eating gluten free, as a means of feeling better digestively. I was sick most of the time, but didn’t know why. Then the dairy products had to go, then the sugar, then the legumes. So when I recently (started on September 1st) decided to go paleo, it wasn’t that big of a change for me. am very hopeful that I am going to be healthier for it.

    I have encountered a great deal of negative feedback from family and co-workers, which I thought was very strange. It’s helpful to know I’m not the only one who is getting crap for trying to eat healthy.

    Thank you, Mark, for your excellent article!

    Ellen Lake wrote on September 4th, 2013
  18. Mark – your sarcasm and wit are highly entertaining, but believe it or not (and I am a highly educated person), it tends to cloud the point you are trying to make. If someone doesn’t read carefully or attentively enough, it would be easy to think you are supporting those “studies” rather than refuting them. Unfortunately, a lot of readers may miss your point, and the point is so valid that I hope that doesn’t happen.Great article, nevertheless!

    Carol wrote on September 4th, 2013
    • No, his wit and sarcasm make it fun to read. It’s my responsibility as the reader to slow down and understand. I’ve done enough writing to know that you can compose a sentence like this:

      The Post Office is on the right, by the House o’ Food Fads shop.

      Then a reader will go “Okay, thanks. But where’s the Post Office?”

      Skimming is not the author’s problem. I’m sure he typed slow enough for everyone.

      Amy wrote on September 4th, 2013
  19. Excellent rant, Mark! Well done, well written, well timed. Keep ’em coming. I really enjoy your sense of humor, your outrage at ridiculousness, your well-informed self. You are clearly helping me stay healthy. A big ol’ thank you is cyberly heading your way!

    Katharine Thomas wrote on September 4th, 2013
  20. Great post. I have to confess to being one of those eye-rollers that thought the gluten-free thing was something made up by over-protective soccer moms. Until 2 years ago when I developed a very sudden and very severe intolerance for gluten. I went undiagnosed for 18 months and it was hell. I’m gluten free for 6 months and feel wonderful and feel better than I have in years. I wish I had given it up many years earlier. Now that I understand what gluten is and what it does to the body, even if I could eat it, I would choose not to.

    Beth S wrote on September 4th, 2013
  21. “…there is that subset of the population who takes umbrage at people making health decisions without conducting randomized controlled trials..”

    If you say “I prefer food without gluten” or “I’d rather be cautious and reduce gluten where I can” you don’t get an eye roll (from me). The problem is, people don’t say that. They insist “gluten is bad for you!”, “gluten is poison!” or “I’m allergic to gluten and so are you!” Yes, I’ve been told all of those. The last one about dairy as well, from a naturopathic “doctor.” A disturbing amount of the time the person then describes how he or she went to his naturopath and got his “levels” measured by some machine.

    In the absence of evidence caution may be justified. Evangelism, stating absolutes and dispensing health recommendations is not.

    Robb wrote on September 4th, 2013
    • “If you say “I prefer food without gluten” or “I’d rather be cautious and reduce gluten where I can” you don’t get an eye roll (from me).”

      But, with respect, avoiding gluten isn’t about “reducing” it since very small amounts can start the immune and inflammatory responses that cause life-shortening and health-destroying reactions. For example, the EU, never the most holistic-minded of agencies, recommends 20 parts per million of gluten, or less, before a product can be labelled “gluten free”.

      “I prefer” or “reduce where I can” sound far more like the tedious fudges used by people who wish to avoid fat in their food for supposed health reasons, yet by the end of the meal will cave in and start scarfing their dinner date’s ice-cream, and would be even less likely to be taken seriously. 😉

      I don’t “prefer not” to eat gluten, in fact when it comes to preferences I used to LOVE wholegrain breads – but I’ve found my lifelong clinical depression, brainfog, and a myriad other small but nasty problems eased up since I eliminated it from my life, and I don’t see why I should risk being physically damaged by someone who thinks “Oh, it’s just a preference, so a little won’t hurt” if you see my point? :)

      There was a case a while ago of a chef giving people who had requested the gluten-free menu options gluten-packed pasta, since he evidently believed it was a matter of neurotically fussy eaters not really knowing what’s good for them, and since that can do serious harm, it’s not really an issue we should be willing to fudge about, apologise for, or in any way give ground.

      I doubt whether anyone would like to eat food that the chef has spat into, even if the high temperatures destroyed any germs and made that spit completely harmless, and to my mind this is the same issue – if you request not to have gluten-contining ingredients used, you have a right for that request to be respected by the people whose wages you’re paying, and not to have to apologise, explain or backtrack – “I prefer it if Juan doesn’t spit in my soup, I’m trying to reduce the amount of body-fluids I swallow before 6pm where I can” or something!

      The issue is ultimately about consumer choice, and respect for that, not whether the chef, wait-staff or anyone else has the right to sneer at your request and give you whatever’s most convenient (or amusing :) ) for themselves.

      Patrick wrote on September 4th, 2013
      • Patrick, I don’t know you, but I Love You Primally. I have thoroughly enjoyed your well-reasoned and gently-put thoughts throughout this thread!

        Joy Beer wrote on September 5th, 2013
  22. +1

    Tim wrote on September 4th, 2013
  23. I have had no “symptoms” of gluten tolerance issues as far as I know, however, one and a half years of forgoing grains and wheat have been a blessing to my health and wellbeing. Also, I get to joke with carb-eaters at their expense!
    Recently I went on a month long binge of craft beer drinking and my cholesterol skyrocketed after having dropped 60 points previously. Coincidence? Doubtful. Gluten reaction? Probably!

    Mike wrote on September 4th, 2013
  24. Just an observation: I have seen on Dr. Oz presentations by Dr. Dean Ornish and Dr. Andrew Weil, who both recommend grains, and noticed that both appeared somewhat puffy and unhealthy, compared to Dr. William Davis, who appeared and spoke about his book “Wheatbelly”, looking very fit and healthy.

    Maxmilliana wrote on September 4th, 2013
  25. To get off humans for a second, gluten issues can affect pets, also. A lot of dry (and even canned) dog and cat food contains wheat and corn. Recently I had to feed my 90-year-old-mom’s cat for a day or two, with dry food; she advised me to feed the cat in small doses because he would throw it up if given the entire amount all at once. The first ingredient, chicken. The second, whole wheat flour. The third, corn gluten meal. I almost threw up myself. This is an obligate carnivore we’re talking about. And this was a ‘Science Diet’ formulation. Talk about marketing!

    BillP wrote on September 4th, 2013
    • One of our dogs started getting horrible diarrhea several times a week. On our vet’s suggestion, we switched him (and all our other pets) to grain free food, and it cleared up the problem immediately.

      Horses can also be gluten intolerant.

      Kate wrote on September 4th, 2013
    • I fed my cat grain free food. Pets dont normally eat grain . That is what I say plus you could get contamination if they lick on you too.

      connie curtis wrote on September 4th, 2013
    • My dog went grain free long before I did! Funny thing was I didn’t realize it until 2-3 months after discovering that I had a gluten intolerance… I had adopted her three years ago and she would have bouts of diarrhea and throwing up, I finally went to a local pet shop and she highly recommended Acana dog food. Sure enough all her problems stopped, I never read the label to understand why… until I thought if this gluten free thing works for me is that what worked for her? She has been grain free for 2 years now and I have been gluten free for 8 months.

      I’m working on the grain free/dairy free portion for myself now. My stomach/skin/energy problems aren’t 100% cured but they certainly are 90% there and more than 1000% better than I had ever felt on my healthiest day in my former life.

      Emily wrote on September 4th, 2013
  26. I then ask these people to explain why after a Whole30 I couldn’t walk after the day I ate bread….Knee inflammation was through the roof…sigh

    Justin Wisor wrote on September 4th, 2013
  27. when they grill you about why you avoid gluten just tell them it gives you diarrhea. nobody will argue with diarrhea.

    sharon wrote on September 4th, 2013
    • +1 x Infinity!

      Maureen wrote on September 4th, 2013
  28. I, for one, am THRILLED that this Gluten Free thing has become a fad. It’s making my life as a busy, working mother who feeds her family 80% primal/paleo, a whole lot easier.

    I have 3 teenagers. Sometimes, they just don’t want to chop vegetables and wait for the meat to cook. Yay for having a few crappy gluten free snacks on hand. I’ve noticed the grocery stores are carrying more of these, and the prices are going down too. I just found frozen, gluten free waffles at HyVee for $2.18/box. I know these snacks are poor fuel, and I don’t consider them paleo/primal. But, at least these foods don’t give my kids headaches and damage their gut linings.

    I must be an egomaniac, because I just don’t feel the disdain you mention. :) If anything, I have to manage my own thoughts and not be critical of those who have not connected the dots yet. I guess our waiters/waitresses are going back to the kitchen before they roll their eyes, because up to this point I have been impressed by the lengths restaurants have gone to to accommodate our diet. Pays to not pay attention, I guess.

    Thanks for the great article.

    Miki wrote on September 4th, 2013
    • “Yay for having a few crappy gluten free snacks on hand.”

      You’ve raised a very good point :) – I hadn’t realised it before, but the availability of foods that resembled the familiar ones was a large part of the reason why I trialled going gluten-free, which has been the best thing I ever did for my own health – mental, as well as physical.

      Probably, if the gluten-free breakfast muffins, and the gluten-free everything else, hadn’t been there as a substitute I’d have been much more wary – they made the transition much easier.

      I hardly use them now, but in the first few weeks they meant I didn’t have to redesign my entire food plan from scratch, and could be faced with something reasonably familiar looking at breakfast and so on.

      So while some purists might sneer at them, they are doing a very good thing and are also raising the profile of gluten-free eating for those (like me) who previously only thought it was appropriate for a minority of fully-diagnosed celiacs. :)

      Patrick wrote on September 4th, 2013
      • Agreed!

        Miki wrote on September 4th, 2013
  29. I concur with the conclusion that if we at least reduced our dependence on food products that contained gluten then it would at least force us to rely on a more varied and balanced diet.

    For two days last week I was in a “fast paced” mode, and just grabbed any foods that would quickly and easily fill my belly which resulted in me eating a disproportionate amount of bread. I quickly gained 3 lbs.

    It may be considered inconvenient to go gluten free, but then it’s inconvenient to be spending time in doctor’s offices trying to figure out why we’re not feeling up to scratch.

    I agree, you don’t necessarily have to consume gluten free food products to replace products which contain gluten. There are so many other more natural [and far less expensive] food products which can provide us with a health, balanced diet.

    Rick wrote on September 4th, 2013
  30. Great article. Look what I found on Prevention’s website,in it’s
    ’25 Worst Diet Tips Ever’

    “cutting gluten without checking with your doctor first can lead to deficiencies in important nutrients, such as fiber, iron, vitamin B12, and magnesium, says MaryAnne Metzak, CDN, a nutritionist in Southampton, NY”

    Their claim seems ridiculous to me.
    Gluten is basically garbage that can be cut out, right?

    Andre wrote on September 4th, 2013
    • Gluten, and the cereals that contain it, are not essential to human life nor are they consumed by every community of humans, so the claim you’ve mentioned from that site is factually incorrect. :)

      Nor was anything resembling modern grains ever eaten as a staple food by our ancestors – that is the gist of primal eating & paleo diets.

      Archeological records show that the introduction of farming and the resulting increased reliance on grains led to a sharp decline in bone health and an increase in dental problems – which used to be agonising, and frequently fatal, before modern dentistry.

      Don’t believe everything you read just because it’s stated by a nutritionist, the vocal majority are still following the grain-based USDA food pyramid that has crippled, maimed and killed so many good people since the low-fat craze began. 😉

      Patrick wrote on September 4th, 2013
      • Thank you.
        My wording might have been confusing.
        I didn’t believe their claim for a moment.
        It’s surprising that a nutritionist would make such a ridiculous statement.
        I’m not going to consult my doctor before I cut out the Ramen and cupcakes!

        Andre wrote on September 4th, 2013
  31. Migraine free for 16 months and counting….this must just be a fad too then! Gluten is straight-up poison for me!

    George Regal wrote on September 4th, 2013
  32. Thanks for the article. While for some it may be a fad, for others it is a reality. My nutritionist suggested I might have a wheat sensitivity nearly 30 years ago – long before the general public was hearing about it. After an allergy test found I am, indeed, highly allergic to wheat I eliminated it from my diet. It was life changing. I experienced better digestion, more energy, less grumpiness, and loss of abdominal fat. In those days there were very few tasty gluten free alternatives, so I just stopped eating breads and other products made from processed flour. The difference in the way I felt more than compensated for the lack of baked goods and pasta.

    I have found that some people are exceptionally rude when I say I don’t eat wheat and I’ve always wondered why others care what I do or don’t eat. Personally, I’ve never felt it was my place to determine what another person chooses to eat. I figure it is their body and their decision – whether due to allergies, personal taste, liking to be a part of the current fad… whatever. It is really up to them.

    Cheri Fredrickson wrote on September 4th, 2013
  33. I’ve been 90% Paleo for almost two years now but have always avoided wheat bread. Yesterday, I was in an extreme rush, hungry, with limited food options.
    I got a turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread.

    About two hours after eating it, I began to experience stomach pains. Over the course of the rest of the afternoon and evening I felt progressively worse and went to bed as soon as I got home from work at 6pm. My skin also started to itch.

    Today I still have a dull stomach pain, although I am starting to get an appetite back. I am tired and feel like I got ran over by a truck.


    Sabrina wrote on September 4th, 2013
  34. It helps to be able to explain to people (who are amenable to listening) what the difference is between gluten free and grain free – and why it matters.

    As this post points out, there’s much confusion. As I’ve written in earlier comments, I’ve become hesitant to talk about how I eat. But when I do mention that I don’t eat grain, it’s pretty clear that most people think I mean I’m gluten free (like someone else they know, who they tell me about at that point).

    I feel like if we (Primal followers) are going to talk about Primal, we may as well be clear. All “gluten free” usually amounts to is taking the gluten out of grain and eating what’s left of it (including harmful lechtins and phytates – which few seem to know or care about – plus the attendant carb load, plus all the stuff usually added to gluten free food, like sugar and other sweeteners).

    Grain free means no grain – as in not any part of it. Most people don’t even know what counts as grain (like anything with flour, for example).

    If we’re gonna talk, we should do it clearly. That’s all I’m sayin.’ :-)

    Susan Alexander wrote on September 4th, 2013
    • “Grain free means no grain – as in not any part of it. Most people don’t even know what counts as grain (like anything with flour, for example).”

      Ignorance is everywhere – when I was a vegetarian, I was frequently offered things made with gelatine, or fish, or even chicken dishes! 😉

      The vast majority of people haven’t got one clue to rub against another, which is why they just eat any old crud – it’s on the shelves, so it must be cool, right?

      Patrick wrote on September 4th, 2013
      • No problem! We’ll make lamb!

        Julie wrote on September 4th, 2013
        • Loved that movie!!! :)

          Amy wrote on September 4th, 2013
      • Ha ha! That reminds me of the movie “Ratatouille” where Remy the rat’s brother is eating some garbage, and Remy says, “What are you eating?” and his brother is like, “I don’t really know. I think it was some sort of wrapper once.”

        Sadly, I know way too many people like this. I’ll ask my roommate what she’s having for dinner, and she has to consult the box to answer me.

        Renee wrote on September 4th, 2013
    • This is how I feel. I have been wondering why it is not mentioned more, not even by Mark. This topic was brought up on Medpage a week ago. The comments here are so much better. There were many comments that Mark was spoofing in this post. It is sad, how MDA members are smarter than those who read a doctors educational site.
      bang head on desk.

      Greg wrote on September 5th, 2013
  35. Brilliant and a much needed write up!


    Carlo wrote on September 4th, 2013
  36. I read severeal books and articles that recomend giving up on Grains, Sugar and mainly processed foods. All of them with a different level of information or making the point on a different basis.
    I read Atkins, and bounced back, I followed for some time John Gabriel principles (read his book of course), and finaly researching on why I felt so bad after my former prefferred dish (pizza) I bumped with Robb Wolf´s work on Paleo, kept on reading Peter Atia sometimes anoying blog and finaly reached Mark´s Daily Apple.
    After all that info, if someone ask me why I quit on complex carbs (grains and sugar), its just because I finaly started to feel good.

    Alejo wrote on September 4th, 2013
  37. You have an agenda, Mark: you sell products that promotes a Paelo diet. So of course you will push it every chance you get. I used to read you with regularity, but now when I see your posts I take them with a grain of salt. I know you are simply pushing, pushing, and I cannot trust that it’s trustworthy information. And the remark about soccer moms blindly following Miley Cyrus? How about that for vitriol?

    Amy wrote on September 4th, 2013
    • He’s pretty open about that agenda. The whole site is dedicated to information about Paleo. Yes, he’s going to push it, partly out of a need to make a living but also because he’s experienced good health on it. The regular posters and the endless Friday success stories should be enough to convince an observer that he’s at least not alone.

      I’m not sure what’s gained here about making a claim about not “trusting” him anymore. You should have always been taking every post with a grain of salt, along with everything else out there on the ‘Net. I like this site precisely because personality cults seem to be discouraged and critical thinking is encouraged.

      And the jokes are also no surprise – there’s all sorts of them to be offended by in many articles to be offended by. Humor is relative. If you’re really offended by it, there are other Paleo sites that are much more “just the facts ma’am”.

      Amy wrote on September 4th, 2013
      • Can I risk being annoying, Amy & Amy :) and just quickly point out that this site and Mark himself don’t promote *paleo* eating, which almost always prohibits dairy and is far more committed to low-carb, and instead is about primal eating?

        Many paleo authors believe the human body has no need whatsoever for any kind of dietary carbohydrates, for example – whereas Mark posts dessert recipes, has suggested up to 150g carb as a guideline daily amount for a non-athlete looking to maintain their current weight, and the primal diet doesn’t prohibit dairy for those who don’t have an intolerance.

        As to products, Mark’s posts (don’t unlike some sites) promote his supplements in the articles themselves, along with fear-mongering warnings of the dire consequences of not taking them, so to my mind his integrity is impeccable (ick, I sound like a right suck-up there! 😉 )

        Patrick wrote on September 4th, 2013
        • LOL – I like your clarification better. :) (The second Amy)

          Amy wrote on September 4th, 2013
  38. Sorry to say that, given the current state of American’s health and where it is trending, unless a large number of our fellows have a change heart, the problem is likely to work itself out in less than a generation.

    “Better to light a candle than curse the darkness” – Gandalf the Grey – honest

    Oly wrote on September 4th, 2013
    • …on the flip side, if everyone goes paleo tomorrow, we may all be in deep kimchi!

      Frodo Baggins – no lie

      Oly wrote on September 4th, 2013
  39. I gave up gluten almost two years ago for chronic, persistent nausea and constipation. It has made a significant difference for me. My very practical doctor here in Canada told me to either take Gravol (similar to Dramamine in the U.S.) OR – and I quote, “find that thing that gives you a stomach ache and then don’t eat it.” Rather than all the tests and scopes and other procedures – that’s what I chose to do.

    If I have to go to a pot-luck gathering, I always bring something I can eat – and I always label it ‘Gluten-free’, since so many people are adopting that way of eating these days. When we have our own dinner parties, I always ask the guests if they have any allergies. Because I ask this question all the time, now people are asking me, when we are invited back.

    lin wrote on September 4th, 2013
  40. “Glu-Tards; People on a gluten free diet”. Urban Dictionary. Anyways EVERY person I know who does this gluten free thing eats total crap. Chips, fries, candy, sugary breakfast cereal. They just dont eat wheat. NONE of them are the slightest bit interested in eating paleo. They think Im the weird one. So dumb. I know a lot of people that do this. Maybe its just the class of people in my area. Also none of them exercise.

    Karen wrote on September 4th, 2013
    • I kinda mentioned something similar to this in an earlier post, but I hope I was a bit more even handed about it.

      Nocona wrote on September 4th, 2013

Leave a Reply

If you'd like to add an avatar to all of your comments click here!

© 2016 Mark's Daily Apple

Subscribe to the Newsletter and Get a Free Copy
of Mark Sisson's Fitness eBook and more!