Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Gluten Bell Curve and Why It's Better to Lie

bell curve.gif
You've probably heard of a bell curve. It's a figure used to explain that the majority of a population are "average" while there are a few outliers at opposite ends of the spectrum. You can use a bell curve to describe various things: grades in a math class, height of a group of people, etc. You could also use a bell curve to describe tolerance. Let's take the sun, for instance. The average person can tolerate a moderate amount of sunshine, while a few people can tolerate a great deal of sunlight (typically dark skinned people) and a few people can't tolerate much sunlight at all (very fair skinned people). This makes sense, but what's funny (actually, sad) is that when it comes to food and drink, people are generally more accepting of people at the EXTREME end of things. Allow me to explain. 

Have you ever been at a bar with people and decided not to drink? People look for a reason why. And more so, you might feel the need to give an excuse. "Oh, I have to get up early tomorrow," "I drank a lot last night,:" etc. even if you do, they look at you funny because it's socially expected to drink and not doing so is not "normal." However, if you said you were a recovering alcoholic, people back off and let you do your thing with your water and lemon. 

Same thing happens with bread, pasta, and other gluten-laden things. It's more acceptable to say you're celiac than it is to just say you don't want to eat bread, pasta. etc. To me, this is absolutely ridiculous. Knowing that gluten wrecks havoc on the human body, (whether you are diagnosed with celiac disease or not), why isn't it socially acceptable to just choose not to eat grains? 

Let's go back to the bell curve. I do think there is a spectrum of tolerance when it comes to gluten. Some folks simply cannot have it or else it sends them over the edge (think celiacs) while a small percentage of people can probably can tolerate a decent amount. What the middle of that bell curve (majority of people) doesn't realize is that gluten can affect and aggravate things such as ADHD, schizophrenia, rheumatoid arthritis, infertility, depression, and a plethora of other diseases. You might be saying, "Well, I don't have any of those things." Ok, tell that to a 14 year-old who smokes and says she doesn't have lung disease. Yet. In other words, just because there isn't an immediate reaction to gluten doesn't mean it's harmless. 

What's the end message? Try taking gluten out of your diet for 30 days. It's only a month! At the end of that 30 days, I bet you will have seen changes. (weight loss, less puffy face, less inflammation, less achy joints, etc) If you are truly itching for some gluten at the end of 30 days, go ahead and have it. I'll bet you have some adverse side effects (stomach ache, achy joints) Personally, if I have beer, even just a glass or two, I wake up with very swollen glands. You'll slowly, but surely realize that you're better off without it. 

And if you're in a situation where you just don't want to eat that birthday cake or dinner roll, maybe it's better to lie and just say you're celiac. You're 70 year-old self will thank you. 

P.S. All real food is gluten free, but not all gluten free food is real. 

Resources for the skeptics:
"Type 1 Diabetes: The Gut Connection" - (read this if you believe you believe non-celiac people are fine to eat gluten)

1 comment:

  1. Chris great post and this is something that I currently do. I tell peple that I can't have gluten and with all of hte press that gluten is getting lately, most of the time people understand. It's much easier than explaining what Paleo is and why I do it when someone asks you at a party why you aren't eating the pasta that they are eating.

    I agree with the gluten curve as well, and I think a lot fewer people can truly oterate it than think they can. I used to eat a ton of gluten, but after I healed my body I now feel ill and get headaches when I have a gluten exposure - small ones I can deal with but eating bread in Italy made me feel terrible.

    Maybe with the Paleo movement becoming a bit more main stream we'll reach that point where its normal to be Paleo, and people acatully understand what you mean when you say, I don't eat grains :)

    Love the ending quote, gluten free bread is not food, don't eat it!


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