November 9th, 2012

Gluten free-for-all

It used to be that only the rare person with celiac disease had to eat a gluten-free diet. But lately it’s become all the rage to be sensitive to the stuff.

Now, I suppose some people are. And if they feel better without eating gluten, who am I to tell them to eat it?

But these things have taken on a faddish nature, haven’t they? For example, the other day I saw an ad on TV for gluten-free dog food.

Yes, gluten-free dog food has undergone a similar proliferation to the human kind. Who knew?

And for the especially paranoid among you, here’s a video showing you how to test your dog’s gluten-free dog food to see if some gluten has unaccountably snuck in. I kid you not:

O wonder!
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,
That has such people in’t.

23 Responses to “Gluten free-for-all”

  1. Martin Says:

    And then she voted for Obama.

  2. benning Says:

    Wild dogs, and wild cats, eat meat, not cereals, grains, and such. Oh, if their stomachs are upset they’ll eat grasses to … move things along. We feed our pets people food. And wonder why they get sick. Yeesh!

    As for gluten … I read an article a while back that implied that modern baking created the gluten problem. Doughs that used to rest and rise overnight are now, and for a while, being prepared with a quick-acting yeast. Seems that that leaves gluten that is not digestible – or sumpin’ – for a lot of people. Maybe that’s the problem?

    ‘Course how many people are actually allergic to peanuts, as opposed to suffering from hysterical symptoms?


  3. CV Says:

    My husband and daughter have celiac disease. As a baby more than 50 years ago, my husband almost died when wheat cereal was introduced into his diet. He literally began wasting away and had to be hospitalized. Fortunately, a forward-thinking pediatrician figured out what was going on.

    Oops, sorry to bring up the F word – forward 🙂

    My daughter had no symptoms but was diagnosed after a blood test was positive for celiac. It’s a hereditary condition but the rest of the family is in the clear, it appears.

    I do think that going gluten-free has become a fad of sorts, but my husband and daughter are downright thrilled to see all of the gluten-free options at the grocery store these days. No more cardboard, mail order bread for them!

    That aid, I’ve read some persuasive information about the health hazards of eating wheat these days. It’s all “FrankenWheat,” a crop scientifically engineered over the past 50 years to contain what Dr. Mark Hyman labels a Super Starch, a Super Gluten and a Super Drug.” Causes inflammation and weight gain:

  4. Susanamantha Says:

    Yep. I have a friend who has self-diagnosed herself as gluten-intolerant. You ought to go out to dinner with her. It takes her forever to make a dinner selection. I don’t know if her health has improved. She had no health problems as far as I know. She’s the kind who follows whatever fad diet that comes down the pike. She has tried the Blood-type diet, body-shape diet and Lord knows what others. As for me, moderation, followed by a dose of skepticism.

  5. helvetica Says:

    Count me in as a doctor-diagnosed gluten avoider – who is also sick of the faddish nature of gluten free diets and self diagnosis. I have DH, a form of celiac disease that damages the skin but I’m not a huge believer in the lastest fad health idea that gluten is poison for everyone because it’s clearly tolerated well by most people, some of whom even manage to stay skinny.

    There are people who are downright crazy about it – one mom I know of has one kid (of three) with celiac and she is so uptight that their whole house is gluten free including the dogs and the nonceliac kids aren’t allowed to eat gluten outside the home either. Ridiculous because many celiac patients manage to successfully live in a mixed household with human (and canine?) gluten eaters.

    Although then there are the people who are like, “here I made this cookie for you and there is only a teaspoon of flour in it…”

  6. holmes Says:

    We feed our dogs grain free food, but mostly because it helps them with their weight especially as they have gotten older. Dogs weren’t really meant to eat grains.

  7. expat Says:

    Used to be that people just said so and so doesn’t agree with me, ate something else, and moved on. Today, the attention getters give you all the details of their self diagnosis. It drives me nuts.

    Latest from the EU. It seems they are testing every product that could have any harmful effect on any person. They have not found that treemoss (baummoss is the word used in German) can cause an allergic skin reaction. Treemoss is a component of Chanel No. 5. I wonder whether they will have to stop making it, change the formula, or put a warning label on it. The EU folks should all be sent into the woods to roll around in poison ivy. I used to react to poison ivy very strongly as a kid, but I survived.

  8. Rob Says:

    I don’t care if it is The Onion. It’s still funny….,30224/

  9. T Says:

    And Jello! Let’s not forget about Jello!

  10. expat Says:

    Did you all hear about Petraeus’s resignation? It’s over at PJM.

  11. Kurt Says:

    While I share the suspicion of those I’d characterize as “gluten-phobes,” I also recognize that there are numerous good points made in some of their arguments against including gluten and grains in the diet. By gluten-phobes, I don’t mean those who have celiac (which is a serious and also, thankfully, rather rare disorder), but people who seem to believe, based on little more than anecdotal evidence, that eliminating gluten from the diet will help to resolve all sorts of health issues.

    I’d agree with the point above about dogs not naturally eating grains, for example. I switched my dogs to a grain-free food several months ago as I noticed that one of them seemed to be gassy more often after eating food that contained grains. The problem seems better with the new food, but it could just be a coincidence and the problem might return eventually.

    I’d also like to echo benning’s point about the problems with modern baking techniques. As I’ve mentioned before in comments on posts about food and diet, I’m not one of those paleo diet folks who eschew all grains and starches, but I try not to eat too many, and I prefer to eat things made with grains that have been soaked, soured (fermented), or sprouted. I made my own sourdough starter back in early 2011 using the technique outlined here and have been doing sourdough baking ever since. Traditional sourdough requires lengthy fermentation and rise times as the yeasts and bacteria in the starter help to predigest the grains in a way that makes them easier on the system.

  12. Sam L. Says:

    The instruction I got for starter was one each cup of water and flour, stir well, leave uncovered and stir occasionally until it starts bubbling.

    I’ve had failures, and I attribute them mostly to not using the starter enough.

  13. Otiose Says:

    As to who should draw what line where on eating gluten, I don’t know. I’ve noticed some faddish aspects of late. I don’t mind since I have some sensitivity to it that almost got me to a dead state and the greater awareness only helps me cope.

    One point I’ve wondered about gluten is how a food so central for so many people for so long – several thousand years in the Old World – be causing so many people problems now? Basic evolution should have removed sensitivities a very long time ago as it was being domesticated and widely used.

    This faddish sounding book – “Wheat Belly” by Davis – makes some intriguing points. I’ll just get to a few here. Because of the military’s reluctance to throw out several thousand blood sample from before WWII a study comparing gluten sensitivity of those samples to today’s people concluded that the rate has gone up about 4X. Davis outlines in early chapters how a scientist after WWII made extensive improvements to wheat to increase productivity, but in doing so also changed the genetic make up a great deal so that now all the wheat people eat today is considerably different from what was eaten up to just before WWII and it is those differences (e.g. in proteins) that account for the higher rate of sensitivity to wheat (and its relatives) today and for much of the higher obesity rates we see. Even if you’re not gluten sensitive most people are prone to gain more weight from eating today’s ‘improved’ wheat than the older types.

    One other effect from reading this book is that I’m more open to arguments about the possible negative effects of genetically modified foods than before. Davis clearly outlines a concrete example in which seemingly modest changes (hybridizing using pre bio tech methods no less) hide major changes in the protein structure of the food itself that may have had very unanticipated effects on people consuming the food.

  14. foxmarks Says:

    I enjoy testing and learning about my particular biochemistry. I think I have a sensitivity to gluten, with a reaction like a mild allergy. Nothing severe like celiac.

    So I say there’s some truth in the gluten hysteria. But agree that most of it is psychological, not physiological. Our allergies have become part of our identity.

  15. RandomThoughts Says:

    Our allergies have become part of our identity.

    True words, foxmarks. At the Store Where I Work, we have a substantial percentage of shoppers who willingly pay hundreds of dollars per visit for various “health supplements,” gluten-free products (we stock a surprising array of them and they are all absurdly expensive) and other “healthy” food items.

    We have a running joke that at 4:45 pm we get the “Dr. Oz crowd.” About 15 minutes after his show ends, a large number of people come in eager to buy whatever he’s touted. Chia seeds, raspberry ketone, we can tell what it was just by the sudden volume of it appearing at our checkout stands.

    I try to avoid conversations with these shoppers, because they are convinced that they have all kinds of allergies and sensitivities, just from what they’ve seen on TV. No expense is too great when they believe following the latest fad (and gluten free certainly is one) will improve their health.

    The quote about a fool and his money often comes to mind…

  16. JuliB Says:

    Recently I read an article in some natural health magazine about a baker who makes bread from older, obscure grains and even people with celiac can eat the bread without a problem. It’s an interesting possibility.

  17. Smock Puppet, 10th Dan Snark Master Says:






    IT’s ALL ABOUT Meeeeeeeeee!!!

    Yes, *I* am the CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE, and


    If you DO, I’ll puke on your shoes and
    blame it on the Gluten you just fed me.

    No, it doesn’t matter if we’re hiking in the WOODS.

    You need to be paying attention to MEEEEEEEE.

    Yes: Meeeeeeeeee…





  18. Smock Puppet, 10th Dan Snark Master Says:

    Dogs weren’t really meant to eat grains.

    Tell that to the dog eating grass…

  19. Kurt Says:

    Sam L: As far as making your own starter, the video I linked above describes a technique devised by Peter Reinhart where you start the first bit of flour with some pineapple juice, and the acidity helps to keep some of the more troublesome microorganisms at bay while encouraging the growth of the ones you want.

    Smock Puppet wrote: ” Dogs weren’t really meant to eat grains.”

    Tell that to the dog eating grass…

    Since grains are technically the seeds of grasses, your point would apply if the dogs ate the grass seed voluntarily, but most of the time when I see my dogs eating grass, they just tear up the green stalk and chomp on that.

  20. Gary Rosen Says:

    There is a local pizzeria that charges $4 more for a “gluten-free” pizza. I have been wanting to ask them if I can order a pizza with extra gluten for $4 less.

  21. expat Says:

    I bet the same people who are complaining about the postwar hybrid wheat are the same ones who now take to the baricades against genetically modified foods. The won’t accept the fact that the changes in today’s GMOs can be identified and the products subjected to mch more rigorous testing re the effects on public health.

    How can anyone attribute postwar obesity problems to hybrid wheat? Given the enormous changes in our diet and the increase in all prepared foods since the war, there is no way you can control an experiment to test for a single factor. I tend to think it has more to do with mothers no longer cooking meals from simple ingredients. When today’s kids prefer Kraft mac and cheese to the kind my mom use to make, you get some idea of the total shift in our eating habits.

  22. holmes Says:

    Grass is a grain? I think it’s more like a vegetable leaf. Plus, dogs often eat grass instinctually to help them vomit or get.something that is.upsetting their.stomach through faster.

  23. tnxplant Says:

    My son is not celiac but has intestinal absorption issues if he eats gluten. My understanding is that the wheat that is grown to make bread today has a much higher gluten content and a different protein content from that of the past. This may have given rise to sensitivities, along with a diet that relies mostly on processed food.

    I’m sure some have simply jumped on the latest bandwagon regarding gluten, but it is a genuinely serious issue for others.

    It is not hard to eat a gluten-free diet if one eats whole foods instead of processed ones.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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