One of the worrying things that has come to my attention during my Veganuary journey is how many vegan products and recipes are also gluten free.
Believe me, I’m not trivialising Coeliac disease. It runs in my family and I know how devastating it can be, especially when it goes undiagnosed for decades. My mother had it, at least one of my aunts, and we reckon an uncle died undiagnosed. But gluten free has become ubiquitous. A neighbour, who to be fair does have health problems, told me she was giving up gluten. Why? I asked. She looked surprised at the question, then assumed a slightly martyred expression and said it was for her health. But she hasn’t been advised by the GP to give it up, has not been tested for Coeliac disease, she’s just decided that for some reason gluten free is a healthier option.
Now I don’t believe all those vegans buying gluten free products have Coeliac disease, nor do I believe they are all allergic to gluten or intolerant of it. Like my neighbour they have erroneously fallen for some bogus dietary myth that gluten is somehow evil.
It’s great for those living with Coeliac disease that there are currently so many products available, but presumably this dietary fad will pass as so many have in the past and those products will disappear from the shelves. What’s less great for Coeliac sufferers is the widespread ignorance surrounding their particular condition and the cynicism a request for a GF option can be met with when the need is genuine and medical. The physical side effects of eating gluten as a Coeliac sufferer are serious, and can cause long-term damage to your digestive system meaning you don’t absorb the nutrients you need.
Not only that, but a survey of people who said they had given up gluten for health reasons were not able to say what gluten is. Celebrity endorsements from Russell Crowe to Victoria Beckham fuel the fad, but they’re not doctors, not nutritionists. so why on earth would you take their advice about what you should be eating?
So if you decide to exclude something from your diet – wine, meat, dairy, gluten, whatever – know why you are doing it and don’t just follow a fashion.