I have coeliac disease. I have always had coeliac disease, but I was only diagnosed a couple of years ago. The diagnosis is the best thing my holistic healer (i.e. my GP) ever did for me: suddenly my health history makes sense, and since diagnosis I am free of IBS, migraine and a load of other symptoms.
Coeliac disease is no big deal these days: gluten free food is widely available. But there’s a sting in that particular tale. Consider, for example, Reading’s gluten-free coffee shop, Nibsy’s. Yes, everything is gluten fee, including the flapjack. I did not need to go into the usual rigmarole about cross-contamination, there is no gluten in the place. I asked if the proprietor was coeliac, and was instead presented with a copy of Wheat Belly (aka Wheat Bollocks) by William Davis. I felt almost guilty pointing out that virtually everything in the book is misrepresented, mis-quoted or plain wrong.
I was chatting to a restauranteur about this, and he expressed great irritation that people would come in, loudly demand gluten free, and then eat a gluten-laden pudding because while they are “a bit gluten sensitive” it’s OK to eat some gluten. For a coeliac, even a stray crouton dropped in the soup vat can lead to a day of misery.
I don’t know any coeliac who loudly demands anything. Most will ask detailed questions to assess awareness of cross-contamination and the difference between “no gluten containing ingredients” and gluten free.
Some places are really good: Pizza Express and Carluccio’s are on my completely safe list. So is the Flowing Spring, a local pub that caters for all kinds of dietary problems, and also serves fantastic music events as a sideline. Top choice for special outings.
Others, not so much. The canteen at my last contract: the chef made a soup containing sausage, and did not realise that most sausage contains gluten. Lovely lady, tried so hard to be helpful, but was not properly trained up (thankfully the food labelling regulations help here).
There’s another problem: places populated by self-diagnosed “gluten sensitive” hipsters who aren’t, where lax kitchen practices are simply never put to the test – until and actual coeliac has the misfortune to cross the threshold.
Non-coeliac gluten sensitivity may or may not exist. Coeliac is under-diagnosed and pretty common, so it is difficult to say what proportion of people who feel relief after switching to a GF diet are, in fact, coeliac. But the majority of diagnoses of gluten sensitivity other than by TTGA blood test and/or duodenal biopsy, are questionable.
To quacks and charlatans (e.g. hair analysis peddlers), gluten sensitivity is basically a free pass. Gluten is always evil, therefore diagnosing sensitivity is never a problem. People will switch to a GF diet, which means being more careful about what they eat, and will usually enjoy at least short-term improvements through the usual grab-bag of placebo and nocebo mechanisms. And that’s the real evil: persuading people to adopt a restrictive diet, which is more expensive and may well lack key nutritional components such as folate fortification of bread flour, for no purpose other than ideology.
I benefit from the wider availability and higher profile of gluten free food. I am massively annoyed by glutenbollocks. I am, in short, conflicted.