This is just one example amongst many of the backlash in the mainstream media against people, who for whatever reason, choose to try or maintain a gluten free diet.
This is a really good article from Gluten Dude on why the Jimmy Kimmel Video Matters - in particular, for people with Coeliac disease, a totally gluten free diet is essential for their ongoing health.
So, why all the fuss about gluten, what is it anyway, and who may need to avoid it?
- Loose stools/diarrhoea, or constipation (or a combination of both)
- Abdominal pain
- Lethargy and fatigue
- Poor weight and growth gain in children
- Iron, folate, zinc, Vitamin D deficiency.
- Osteopaenia and osteoporosis. Approximately 5% of patients being investigated for reduced bone mineral density have undiagnosed coeliac disease as a cause.
- Delayed menarche or recurrent miscarriages in women
- Infertility (in males and females)
- Recurrent mouth ulceration
- Dental enamel defects
If untreated, the long-term risks of Coeliac disease are an increased risk of bowel cancer, osteoporosis, infertility, miscarriages and chronic ill-health. Currently, the only treatment for coeliac disease is a gluten free diet.
However, there are other conditions where either gluten or wheat also needs to be avoid entirely or seriously restricted.
There is ongoing research into other forms of gluten intolerances or sensitivity. These are often called Non-Coeliac Gluten Sensitivity, Gluten Sensitivity or Gluten intolerance.
According to the Better Health Channel, symptoms of gluten sensitivity include:
- Bone or joint pain
- Muscle cramps
- Leg numbness
- Weight loss
- Chronic fatigue
- Behavioural changes
The best way to manage treatment of symptoms from gluten sensitivity is to follow a gluten-free diet.
A recent research paper suggests that non-coeliac gluten sensitivity may actually be due to the presence of fodmaps, such as fructans in wheat. More research needs to be done on whether all conditions currently categorised as non-coeliac gluten sensitivity are in fact reactions to other components in wheat, however, it is worth noting there are other medical conditions such as wheat allergies, fructose malabsorption and people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) who can respond favourably to a wheat free diet.
In the case of fructose malabsorption and other fodmap intolerances, people need to restrict wheat or avoid it entirely due to the fructans (long chain carbohydrates with a fructose molecule attached to them) contained in wheat. In these cases, technically, a gluten free diet is not needed, but as gluten free food also doesn’t contain wheat, many people with these conditions will follow a gluten free diet and consume gluten free foods, as this means they are also avoiding wheat.
Fructose malabsorption, fodmap intolerances and IBS are currently under-diagnosed, with estimates that 1 in 5 (20%) of Australians suffer from IBS at some time.
This could account for why a significant number of people are trying a gluten free diet and finding benefits from it. Problems cause by wheat or gluten are not just a fad, or people being trendy. They clearly affect a significant of the population, so it’s no wonder people are trying gluten free diets to see if it helps with gastrointestinal and other symptoms they’re experiencing.
That said, it’s really important that people who suspect gluten is causing them problems get properly tested for coeliac disease first, as they could be at long term risk from even trace amounts of gluten.
There are also tests for fructose malabsorption, lactose intolerance and sorbitol intolerance. Getting tested for these conditions can help refine any dietary recommendations - e.g. if you are reacting to the fructans in wheat, rather than gluten, then you should also avoid onion and garlic, that are high in fructans (amongst many foods that have a high amount of fructans or fructose). Please see medical professionals who specialise in coeliac disease, and GI health issues if you’re experiencing symptoms that point towards and issue with gluten (or possibly other kinds of food intolerances).
Finally, if you don't have coeliac disease, fructose malabsorption or fodmap intolerances, IBS triggered by wheat, or any other wheat or gluten allergy or sensitivity, be thankful, and spare some compassion for the people who do have these conditions, rather than making the lives of people with these conditions even more difficult by hassling or mocking them.