I am baffled. Why would you go to the trouble of eating a gluten-free diet (which as people who actually can’t eat gluten will know, can be literally and metaphorically, a pain in the arse) if you don’t even know what gluten is? The Jimmy Kimmel show did a segment where they asked a few choice (clueless) people on the gluten free diet to explain what exactly gluten is. As a coeliac, there is so much wrong with this.
First of all, why are they so set on trying to catch people out? Is eating a gluten free diet really so offensive? Yes, there may be some people who eat gluten free because it is the latest thing to do at the gym, but I would bet money that the majority of people do it for genuine health reasons. Personally I fail to see much cause for it otherwise. I say this as a lifelong coeliac who has embraced the gluten free diet (and writes this blog about the lovely GF food that I find!). Even looking at the positives, there are some inescapable facts.
a) It’s inconvenient. Do you really want to have to check the label on every single product you buy, have vastly fewer options when eating out (sometimes none at all), and every day have to turn down delicious-looking foods and negotiate awkward eating situations?
b) It’s expensive. Gluten free manufactured products are typically around 3 times more expensive than the ‘normal’ version, and are often still not at the same standard as their gluteny counterparts. If you are on a budget, it can be difficult to maintain a balanced diet as gluten free basics are so darn pricey. In the UK, the average loaf of gluten free bread is around £3.
c) ‘Going gluten free’ is not necessarily better for your health, if you don’t have a health condition that necessitates it. Sure, eating less processed foods (which commonly contain gluten) is good for you, cutting out some carbs and starches (i.e. wheat bread, pasta) can help, but if you are just replacing these with the equally processed gluten free version then you’re likely no better off. You may be in fact missing out on a whole bunch of nutrients present in wholegrains – grains that most people have been happily eating for centuries.
Secondly, why is this funny?
I really dislike this trend for using the gluten free diet as a punchline. It is unhelpful to have comedians treat the gluten free diet – which let’s remember, is the medical treatment for coeliac disease, a serious, biopsy-diagnosed autoimmune disorder – as something to make fun of, and have Jimmy whatshisname dismiss it as ‘annoying’. I’m sorry my medical needs are so ‘annoying’ to you, Jimmy. Doctors prescribe gluten free food at the surgery, in the same way that they prescribe insulin for diabetics. Can you imagine any comedian cracking jokes about insulin injections?
Eating a gluten free diet as a coeliac allows me to live a normal life, eating gluten causes pain, horrible digestive symptoms and lethargy/brain fog to the point where I can barely get out of bed. Not to mention the internal damage caused by my immune system attacking itself. If coeliac disease is left untreated, it can lead to multiple health problems such as bowel cancer, osteoporosis and infertility. Coeliacs are left more at risk of these every time somebody in a restaurant ‘slips up’ or can’t be bothered to take precautions, because they think we are just on a fad diet. Not so funny.
I want to be clear that I don’t have a problem with your average person wanting to try a gluten free diet, or eating gluten free food because it makes them feel better. The popularity of the gluten free diet has actually helped coeliacs in that there is now a lot more choice and availability of gluten free products. What I DO have a problem with is the spreading of misinformation about what the gluten free diet is for, and the misconception of it as a fad / weight loss diet, not helped when idiot ‘comedians’ like the above make fun of it.