Gluten-Free Living for the Healthy and the Sick

Gluten Free Pizzaby: Casey H.
Staff Writer
In recent years, there has been a rise in the sale of gluten-free products. People with celiac disease (which prohibits wheat from one’s diet) and gluten intolerance (a lesser form of celiac) are ecstatic at the rising selection of foods they are able to eat, since almost no wheat products were available to them before. However, it has caught the public eye as well; there are the people who have decided to go gluten-free in an attempt to become healthier.
However, some diseases make it impossible to include gluten in your diet. This is difficult, since gluten is a common protein found in almost every grain product, cutting out the largest section of the food pyramid. This means that people with sensitivities or celiac cannot eat many of the foods others take for granted, such as bread, pasta, and cookies. The two names for gluten intolerance are celiac disease and gluten intolerance. If a person with celiac disease eats gluten, it begins to eat away at the lining of the small intestine, which is essential to absorbing nutrients from food, and this causes said person to become malnourished. Gluten intolerance is not as severe as celiac, though it still has a major impact on the body. For those who have this, eating gluten will temporarily derail the digestive system, giving the diseased person cramps, diarrhea, constipation, nausea, and flatulence. The only way for the symptoms to go away is to stop eating most wheat products, or eat them in small amounts.
Believe it or not, diagnosed people are not the main buyers of the newest gluten-free products. Many healthy people have stopped eating wheat in an attempt to lose weight or simply feel better in general. Rumors about gluten-free diets have spread like wildfire as of late, and multiple claims have popped up in support of the diet. Don’t eat gluten, lose weight; don’t eat gluten, cure that disease that has been ailing you. Whether it be autism, as actress Jenny McCarthy claims, or weight-loss, which I can support, gluten-free diets are becoming a universal medicine.
Peter Jaret, a writer for the magazine Web MD, says otherwise. Obviously, for people with celiac disease or an intolerance, a gluten-free diet is necessary for their health. However, if someone is a perfectly healthy, wheat-eating person, such a diet might do more harm than good. Wheat, rye, and other grain products contain nutrients that lower the risk of heart disease, type-2 diabetes, and some forms of cancer, according to Jaret.
Another non-medical reason that going wheat-free might be a bad idea for a healthy person is that simply adding “gluten-free” to the box of a product increases the price. While prices have gone down, they are still significantly more expensive than normal foods. For instance, while many types of normal mac-n-cheese cost about $2.00, a box of gluten-free mac-n-cheese at stores like Publix or Kroger costs around $3.50. Restaurants are also offering celiac-friendly products: Domino’s, Uncle Maddio’s Tuscany, and SmallCakes are serving their own gluten-free recipes for pizza, pasta, and cupcakes, all of which are more expensive than normal. In a way, the overall diet is similar to one where you eat only organic foods. It tastes and looks the same, but it is better for you, and that makes it more valuable. This value, combined with the aforementioned medical reasons, outweighs the pros of going gluten-free for anyone who has a choice.
Unfortunately, there are those who do not have that choice. My mother was diagnosed with gluten intolerance in college and had always silently feared that it would be passed down to my sister and me. The symptoms for gluten intolerance started showing Gluten-Freefor me in eighth grade. I was puzzled by the constant cramps and nausea but was in denial. I did not want to be allergic to wheat; sandwiches were my favorite food! However, on the first day of the second semester, I had to leave class because I felt so sick, and my mother suggested I temporarily cut wheat from my diet to see if it would make me feel better. It did, and after many painful lapses in the diet, I have permanently joined her in her gluten-free endeavors.
Despite all this, it is certainly not as difficult to eat gluten-free as it was in, say, the seventies. Likewise, popular stores like Publix and Kroger sell gluten-free products and taste similar to the original. In addition, stores like Domino’s and SmallCakes have taken advantage of the gluten-free fad and are selling their own gluten-free recipes. There are more murmurs about how everything seems to be gluten-free nowadays, and even if that is nowhere near true, life is easier now for people with celiac and gluten intolerance.

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