Coeliac Disease, Rants
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Gluten Free Hate: Easy Money for British Newspapers


(just in case you’d forgotten the worst clickbait-master of them all…)

Have you seen today’s gluten free clickbait?


This ‘gluten free hate’ article in the Guardian has triggered a mixed (mostly bad?) reaction in the coeliac community today. I am accustomed to seeing stuff of this ilk from the Daily Mail and The Spectator, but have to confess I was disappointed to see it in The Guardian. The article follows the classic internet tradition of riling people up to get clicks. Clicks = advertising money, and gluten free dieters are an easy target.

You might think as a coeliac, that I would be on the side of the author. Sure, I do an inward eyeroll* when someone tells me that they are ‘going gluten free’ because ‘it’s healthier’ or because they think it will help them lose weight. Or when someone says they are gluten intolerant, but eats gluten when it suits them. As I’ve written about before, there are problems with the way that ‘gluten free’ has become less of a strict medical term, and more of a ‘healthy’ buzzword.

It is wrong though, to dismiss any non-coeliac who eats a gluten free diet as a fad dieter. It is wrong even, to say that actual fad dieters have had no positive impact for coeliacs. (Would we have ever had 100% gluten free bakeries and restaurants without them?)

While there is a grain of truth in this:

“Indeed, all the hype and hilarity about gluten-free can’t be much fun for celiacs. On the one hand, the rise of gluten-free means a greater availability of decent food they can eat. On the other hand, everyone now assumes they’re a posturing douchebag who wants to make the life of restaurant staff a living hell.” 

This, not so much. (RE the cafe in Dublin ‘jokingly’ requesting coeliacs to bring doctor’s notes)

“I reckon compulsory doctors notes are actually not a bad idea. Indeed, I’d go one step further and make emotional-gluten-support animals mandatory.”

And linking to Muslims and Sharia Law? Strange.

“If the above proves unacceptable, then deportation is also an option. Newt Gingrich suggested testing people of Muslim background to see if they believe in sharia; why not do the same for gluten-fakers?”


Apart from the slightly nasty tone, the article is missing a few facts. Recent clinical research suggests Non-coeliac gluten sensitivity does exist, and there are other valid medical reasons for eating a gluten free diet. It can reportedly can help with symptoms of Crohn’s and Colitis, for example.

There are also many people who are almost certainly coeliac, but are not medically diagnosed. It is a painful process to get diagnosed with coeliac disease and understandably, some people would rather just eat a gluten free diet and stay well.

If eating a gluten free diet is helping someone feel better, then I am inclined to think we should let them get on with it. Of course there are ‘fad dieter’s out there, but I find it hard to wrap my head around why anyone would choose to follow such a difficult, inconvenient and expensive diet unless they have a good reason for it. In any case, I am growing tired of the gluten free hate train.

What did you think of the article? Do you agree with anything in it? Write me a comment and let me know.

Issi x

*(before I politely tell them why that’s not a good idea, obv). 
Quotes attributed to Arwa Mahdawi, writing for the Guardian.

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  1. Disappointing article, and in an age where proper newspapers are struggling it’s very sad. The Guardian should know better.

    • Yes, that’s what I thought Hugh. It was Comment is Free, but still – I usually like the Guardian! Really not a fan of this sort of reactionary ‘controversial’ article.

  2. I am a Guardian reader both in the sense that I am a perfect fit to their demographic and in that I do read the Guardian. The article by Arwa disappointed me for the reasons you have described well Issi. It appeared to veer between odd satire and meanness and the coverage of non-coeliac gluten sensitivity did not include developments since 2016.

    It has prompted me to read some other articles by the same author because I am unused to seeing this from the Guardian.

    No surprise at all with what you have posted from the Daily Mail. In fact I would be surprised if they had not gone for such a click bait “we will post the corrected facts in small print later” approach!

    • Me too, Ben. I’ve been reading The Guardian (or at least the fun bits in The Guide/Magazine) since I was a teenager. It’s not perfect, but it’s not usually so reactionary and obviously clickbaity.

  3. I too was surprised at the Guardian, and I particularly hated the paragraph about digesting the fact about having a normal gastrointestinal system. Ultimately, the impact upon the lives of ‘normal’ people of GF consumers (of all hues) going about their business is minimal, possibly non-existent, which makes these people’s hatred irrational – and harbouring irrational hatred, to me, speaks volumes about them and their personalities.

    • Yep, Alex. It’s such a bizarre thing to hate on, unless you are directly affected by it.

  4. The article is typical of a trend to portray people who eat gluten free as being odd and picky. Even the token coeliacs are ok does little to help as people will automatically label us

    • Yes, not everyone will distinguish between us. When in restaurants, I try to always say I have coeliac disease first, before saying I need gluten free options. I’ve had enough bad experiences from not being taken seriously or even being told that I am being ‘picky’ that I am paranoid about it now.

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