The Great Gluten Controversy

Posted: May 21, 2014 in Lifestyle, Nutrition
Tags: , ,

(WARNING: the following post is very opinionated, direct, controversial and I’ll likely take a lot of shit for it.  It was intended as an initial reaction to other opinions that recently appeared in my inbox.  I didn’t fire the first shot, I’m just responding with my own point of view.)

To gluten or not to gluten, that is the question.

Recently, there has been some scientific studies released that are creating some skepticism around the whole gluten intolerance thing in non-Celiac people.  Specifically, a surprising new study on the phenomenon of gluten intolerance has come down on the side of saying it just does not exist. In other words, if you’re not Celiac, you’re probably not gluten intolerant and are reaping zero benefits from maintaining a gluten free lifestyle.

The study, conducted by Peter Gibson, a gastroenterology professor at Monash University in Australia, reverses the results of his own previous study in 2011, which concluded non-Celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) is a real condition.  Oh joy.  Anyway, this fact became known to me only recently when a string of “friends” on Facebook took it upon themselves to send me links to this new groundbreaking information as a way of saying (or so I took it anyway) “Ha! I told you so!”.

Well, isn’t that marvelous.  So I guess I can forget all about this gluten-free shenanigans then, right?

Here’s the thing: science can prove and disprove just about anything.  Look at the Greenhouse Effect for example, some scientists claim to have “proven” beyond a shadow of a doubt that the earth ozone is being depleted at an alarming rate due to the historically recent high levels of carbon emissions being released into the atmosphere and unless we can change our ways – soon – we’ll inevitably experience another global extinction the likes of which hasn’t been seen since dinosaurs roamed the earth, while other scientists claim it’s just all bunk and we have nothing to fear.  So if you listen to Al Gore we’re all doomed, where the brain trust that is Pat Sajak suggests we’re all just a bunch of “unpatriotic racists”.  It all depends on who you choose to listen to.  I see the debate on gluten no differently.

However, what really irks me is that these people have seemingly made up their mind based on something they inevitably read on the Huffington Post or Buzzfeed, or whatever intellectual online think tank they happen to subscribe to, not because they actually tried the gluten free lifestyle and came up with their own opinions based on actual experience.  Because they’ve read this “new study” somewhere, they’ve immediately concluded that gluten intolerance is a “fad”.  Hey, it’s easy to formulate opinions when you’re only base of reference is reading internet articles from behind a bowl of potato chips, right?  That really annoys me.

I assure you, this was not my thought process:

 

So allow me to try and respond to these naysayers.

First off, I’m a bozo.   I have no claims to being overly intelligent.  Even if I did read all the scientific research currently available on gluten I’d probably only understand maybe a very small fraction of it.  All I know is that when I decided to change my lifestyle nearly a decade ago, I tried everything under the stars…Paleo, vegetarianism, and most recently gluten free. It was all very trial and error based.  I simply adapted what worked and then dismissed what didn’t based on how I felt and how my body reacted over time.  In that time, largely thank to these ‘experiments’, my level of fitness is eons where it used to be back when I was in my “prime”.  I can do things now that I wouldn’t even have considered back then.  So when someone, particularly a person who probably does nothing better with their time than sitting in front of their computer trying to poke holes in my lifestyle philosophy by forwarding me links to “research” that disproves what I have found to work, yeah, I can get a bit defensive.  I admit.

Oh, and for the record, I am currently not gluten free.  I fell off the gluten free bandwagon around Christmas after four months of being sans gluten and haven’t managed to get back on board yet.  So I have experienced both sides of the gluten spectrum if you will; the before, during and after.  Based on that experience, I definitely noticed a huge difference in how I felt (then and now). Screw what the recent scientific studies say.

And make no mistake about it, I also understand the whole placebo effect thing too.  As food writer Michael Pollan suggests, the gluten free issue is a bit of a social contagion, where a “lot of people that hear from their friends, ‘I got off gluten and I sleep better, the sex is better, and I’m happier,’ and then they try it and they feel better, too. It’s the power of suggestion”.

Well, that’s all well and good but has Mike ever tried to swim 4k then ride his bike for 180k before dismounting and running another 42.2k?  Probably not.  As a budding endurance athlete, reducing the amount of inflammation I experience after a workout is paramount with success and I can say for sure, that while maintaining a gluten free diet that that recovery process was much quicker and effective (never mind that my ass turned into a veritable Krakatoa should gluten ever sneak its way into one of my meals).  Likewise, my weight dropped considerably where it had seemingly hit a plateau despite my considerable activity and healthy diet.  So if and when any of my “friends” (you know who you are) who took it upon themselves to forward me this ‘conclusive’ research can accomplish that feat, then MAYBE  I might pay a little more attention to you.  Deal?

What’ya say tough guy?

But as it is, links to research studies do little to sway my opinion on the whole gluten free topic.  I’m only interested in results.  Personally, I think everyone has some degree of intolerance to gluten.  There were simply too many noticeable differences to ignore when I first tried the gluten free lifestyle (which, truthfully, takes about two months to completely expunge your system of the gluten gunk and truly achieve a ‘gluten free’ footprint). However that level of sensitivity (or insensitivity) is unique to each person.  For some, the differences will be huge and immediately noticeable, particularly depending on how active their lifestyle is.  For others, it may be only slight to non-existent, particularly if they aren’t really active.  Someone who sits on the couch for hours on end may not experience any noticeable differences as opposed to someone who runs, bikes, swims, etc. It probably wouldn’t even register on their radar beyond an extra fart or two.   The point here is that you have to actually try it and see for yourself.  I’ve done that.

I’m not a fad follower.  Anyone who knows me knows that already.  So, please, don’t immediately assume that because I’m not a Celiac sufferer that I did not (and will not) benefit from maintaining my current lifestyle choice, especially as they pertain to gluten.  Reading ‘evidence’ on Huffington Post might be enough for some folks, but it means diddley-squat to me and I don’t appreciate the label.  I’ve made my choices and I respect yours as I hope you will respect mine.  Likewise, I have my opinions where you have yours.  I respect that too.

As for gluten free, despite the recent scientific findings I am still excited to get back on the gluten free train and look forward to doing so again soon.

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Comments
  1. AWESOME!!! Everybody is different. You need to do what’s best for you. I couldn’t do what you do so my body will have different needs…like chocolate and ice-cream. LOL. Why can’t that stuff make me LOSE weight? LOL

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