I have been gluten-free for around five years now. In the last five years, gluten-free options have grown exponentially, from grocery stores to restaurants to bagel shops. I have been able to eat healthily and take care of myself, however, the social stigma surrounding gluten-free foods has impacted my mental attitude towards it.
The growing trend in gluten-free foods is due to an increase in the number of people going gluten-free, a simple also known as supply and demand curves. More people than ever are being diagnosed with Celiac's disease. According to a Beyond Celiac analysis in 2009, this year there the Celiac diagnosis rate is predicted to be 50-60% due to awareness, whereas in previous years 83% of people with Celiac's disease will be undiagnosed. More people are going gluten-free and staying healthy! However, it has become a trend to start a gluten-free diet. With little research done about if going gluten-free without necessity is helpful, or even potential hurtful, this new trend has created some benefits and problems.
First, there is more of a demand for gluten-free foods. There are more options than ever and eating this diet has never been easier. Second, the trend has created an increase in awareness and people are being properly diagnosed. According to Beyond Celiac, 1 in 133 Americans has Celiac disease. Not being properly diagnosed can lead to severe symptoms and effects.
On the other hand, there are more problems than benefits. This trend has created a stigma, as well as false information, surrounding gluten-free diets.
A time I encountered the stigma and false information about my diet was a conversation between two classmates. One was informing the other of her friend who is a model, strikingly thin, and gluten-free. She claimed that she wished she could eat gluten-free because she would lose weight, but she did not have the willpower to not eat carbohydrates. When eating a gluten-free diet, one avoids grains in favor of gluten-free replacements, which have more sugar and fat, often making one gain weight.
Glorifying this diet as a trendy, new, slimming diet plan only creates the stigma that this is not a serious health plan.
Another time I encountered this attitude was when I was working in a small bagel shop. Very few of my coworkers knew that I was gluten-free and was not able to eat the bagels. One day a customer came in asking about potential gluten-free options. A coworker informed them that we did not have anything to offer. Later, this coworker informed me that people who are gluten-free have no business walking into a bagel shop. I informed him that I was gluten-free and have driven 25 minutes for a gluten-free bagel before because of the joy of being offered something to eat. The stigma of the "type of person to go gluten-free" created these ideas that, either only trendy people trying to lose weight are gluten-free and that it is not a serious health plan, or that businesses should not have to accommodate.
I did not choose to have this allergy and diet.
People with Celiac disease have intense reactions when eating gluten such as abdominal pain, an inability to absorb nutrients, rash, weight loss, anemia, and vomiting, according to the Celiac Disease Foundation. While I am thankful that there are more gluten-free options than ever, I am tired of having to defend my allergy and diet. Eating gluten-free is not easy, but I have to in order to remain a healthy individual.