I Started the “Gluten-Free Cult”!

"We worship amaranth."

Did you know that if you follow a gluten-free diet, you belong to a secret cult of ignorant sheep lead by false prophets? It’s true. Just ask the doctor who offered this guest post on GettingBalance.com.

 

Her article really breaks it down for us gluten-free folk: Apparently, we’ve all been brainwashed, Charles-Manson style, to see gluten as “evil”. It is something that must be eradicated from the planet.

 

As a matter of fact, if we so much as see a crust of bread dropped in the park, we will make a secret sign to protect us, and take a wide berth around it.

 

This is the “Cult of Gluten”.

 

 

I have a confession to make. 

 

 

 

Lean in closely and make sure nobody is reading over your shoulder.

 

 

Ready?

 

Here goes:

 

I started the Gluten-Free Cult!

 

Don’t believe me? I was doing this whole “cool special diet thing” when 90 percent of food wasn’t labeled gluten free, you had to keep a list of “hidden sources of gluten” with you just to safely shop for groceries, you were ostracized from restaurants, and you had to buy the bulk of your food online!

 

 

Why did I start this cult? Why, to take over the world, of course!

 

 

The rite of initiation is simple: Bring a mysterious plate of “special food” to a gathering of friends or family. If you can live through the embarrassment and barrage of questions without giving in to eating any of the tempting food around you, you’re in!

 

Okay, let me get off my sarcastic soapbox now.

 

 

Here’s my story:

 

 

I had been sick my entire life with various digestive and immune system issues. In 2002, my health had gotten so bad, I was doing things in the bathroom a lady ought not describe, doubled over with stomach spasms, losing my hair, and dropping weight so rapidly, people were commenting on it. 

 

I had no energy, I bruised from the slightest bumpand I  pretty much felt like I was going to die.

 

 

I had been to my primary-care physician and to a couple of gastroenterologists. First, I was diagnosed with lactose intolerance. Then, when that didn’t seem to pan out, I was given that all-familiar blanket diagnosis of “irritable bowel syndrome”.

 

"So basically, you're diagnosing me with chronic stomach pain?"

“So, basically, you’re diagnosing me with chronic stomach pain?”

 

Yes, my bowel was irritable. But why?

 

 

By the time I dragged myself to a naturopathic physician’s office, I was a rail-thin, follicly-challenged, wisp of a thing, with wide, glazed eyes, and a complexion that makes my natural skin tone look like a tan.

 

 

That doctor took one look at me and said, “Food is killing you.” He did extensive blood work (which revealed multiple food and chemical sensitivities and a borderline case of ITP, an autoimmune blood-clotting disorder).

 

He put me on a food-elimination diet and advised I see a hematologist. For four weeks, I endured the tasteless torment of living on cooked dried beans (which I didn’t know to cook, so I ate them crunchy), tomatoes, a few greens, and vegetable chips.

 

 

In between bouts of lightheadedness and snapping at people out of hunger, I realized something was different. Then, it hit me. For the first time in my life, my stomach didn’t hurt!

 

 

After the elimination phase of the diet, it was time to re-introduce suspect foods. I did fine with milk and cheese. It was that nice, hearty bowl of Cream of Wheat that made my stomach give me the finger. Within an hour or two, the blanket of brain fog descended, the spasms returned, and I felt too weak and shaky to function.

 

"Killer cereal."

“Killer cereal.”

 

Knowing that I had to give it up forever, I indulged in one final gluten-heavy meal, curled up on the couch, cried, and got over it. Giving up gluten was a no-brainer for me. There was nothing to consider.

 

Since there was so little information anywhere about celiac disease or gluten intolerance, I had to do a lot of digging around online. My naturopathic physician had diagnosed me with a “wheat allergy”, then left me to fend for myself.

 

I never went for the duodenal biopsy test. It sounded terrifying. But within a month or two of starting the gluten-free diet, both my platelet and white cell count came back up, (I had then since been diagnosed with leukopenia), the severe stomach spasms vanished, and the brain fog, once so thick, I could barely stay tethered to reality, had subsided.

 

 

Something amazing was happening to me, and I wanted to share it with the world. First, it was friends and co-workers. I would explain my symptoms and diet, give them a list of foods to avoid, and tell them where to find gluten-free food. 

 

Months later, I received some positive feedback from people who said the diet had a very positive impact on their health and lives.

 

When I went online, I found even more people suffering from “mystery symptoms“, so I suggested they, too, look into gluten as a possible culprit.

 

 

A few years later, when I started writing natural health articles, I heard from someone who used the diet for a child with severe behavioral problems. He said the diet had changed this child’s entire personality for the better and he had me to thank for it.

 

I still break out into a huge grin when I remember that.

 

 

About five or seven years into my solo navigation of the gluten-free world, natural health stores started popping up to cater to those with special dietary needs. Next, came the mandatory gluten-free food labeling law.

 

 

Eventually, it just exploded into mainstream.

 

 

Now, you can find gluten-free food just about anywhere, along with plenty of restaurants that not only understand your sensitivity, but will cater to it.

 

 

 

When an obviously well-educated physician writes an article about the gluten-free diet, and describes it using words like, “cult” and “false prophets”, she makes us all look like a bunch of gullible hypochondriacs society should take pity on.

 

 

"You're sick...in the head!"

“You’re sick…in the head!”

 

Those of us who follow the diet out of medical necessity really don’t mind if people use it for other reasons. If you are gluten free because you’re curious about it, you want to lose weight, or you think it may give you more energy, it’s fine by us.

 

But it’s not a fad. At least, it didn’t start out that way.

 

 

Twelve years ago, it wasn’t “in” or “cool” to be a gluten-free person. In fact, it sucked.

 

 

People like me spent years afraid to travel, go to restaurants, or even enjoy a celebratory family get-together because we’d be surrounded by poison; hungry, but unable to eat. We had to endure the looks, the questions, the stares, the insinuation that we were either nuts, had an eating disorder, or were just plain rude.

 

 

I may be one of the first people I’ve ever known to go gluten free, but I’m certainly not the pioneer. So, despite my claim in the title of this piece, I now humbly defer to all those who came before me and those who shared my journey around the same time.

 

 

We had one heck of a battle to fight before our special dietary needs could ever become mainstream enough to be categorized, even tongue-in-cheek, as a “cult”.

 

 

I have the utmost respect for anyone who adhered to this medically-necessary diet during the years of false information, skepticism, and overwhelming social pressure.

 

 

Any of this sound familiar?

 

 

  • You ask a waiter 20 times what’s in the dish you’re about to order. He takes down every word, but still doesn’t get it right. You end up having to send your plate back, even though at this point, you’re stomach is rumbling in protest.
"Oh, come on dear. Have just a little gluten."

“Oh, come on dear. Have just a little gluten.”

  • You have to explain, loudly, to your sentimental and hearing-impaired grandmother, why you cannot eat a slice of her famous Christmas pie this year (or ever again).
  • You have to carry gluten-free food with you wherever you go, because your friends and family literally have nothing safe for you to eat in their entire kitchen!

 

  • You could get this question tattooed on your arm: “Can’t you try just a little gluten?”

 

  • You have to take your pastor or priest aside, and gently explain that you’re basically allergic to Jesus, and can no longer receive Holy Communion.

 

Things have changed and progressed so much in a positive direction since gluten-free became mainstream. The only difference between then and now is that we no longer feel like lepers. This so-called “cult” has changed our lives for the better!

 

 

We can now safely order a take-out pizza, indulge in a rich dessert, have a beer, and even fully participate in our religious practices, thanks to the increasing number of churches now offering gluten-free bread or wafers; and we owe it all to the gluten-free diet becoming popular!

 

 

"Yay! I'm included!"

“Yay! I’m included!”

So go ahead and call it a cult, a fad, a craze, or a phase. Just remember, we have a voice now because of the exploding interest and recognition of celiac disease, gluten intolerance, and non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

 

 

It’s because of this “hype” that we are actually able to blend back into society and eat with the rest of you.

 

Keep laughing along with April Peveteaux, founder of Gluten Is My Bitch. (I’d love to have her do a guest post on this site.) 

 

 

Be the first to pre-order the second edition of April’s well-received book:

 

 

Gluten Is My Bitch: Rants, Recipes, and Ridiculousness for the Gluten-Free

Available March 3rd, 2015

About Author: Jaime A. Heidel

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