It’s all in your head-the gluten free placebo

This is a rather long post, please be patient.  This post is my opinion only and is commentary on a newspaper article.  Mr. Krauthammer is certainly entitled to his opinion, as are we all.  I want you all to be informed about what is going on in the gluten free world.  

I am always looking for new information on gluten and its effect on people.  Yesterday I came across an article that made me very angry.

The article is titled:

Food fads-Make Mine Gluten-full

You can read the entire article here.

This article appeared in the Washington Post and was written by Charles Krauthammer, a staff writer who usually writes political columns. He was also a resident and chief resident of psychiatry at Massachusetts General.

Here are some excerpts along with my comments:

When the federal government’s 1980 “Dietary Guidelines for Americans” warned about the baleful effects of saturated fats, public interest activists joined the fight and managed to persuade major food companies to switch to the shiny new alternative: trans fats. Thirty-five years later, the Food and Drug Administration finally determined that trans fats are not just useless but unsafe, and ordered them removed from all foods. Oops.

So much for settled science. To tell the truth, I never paid much attention to the fat fights in the first place. From my days as a medical student (and prodigious consumer of junk food), I’ve seen so many solemnly proclaimed “findings” come and go that I decided long ago to ignore — and outlive — them all.

He is correct here.  Government guidelines do come and go.  He goes on:

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t advocate this kind of jaunty fatalism for everyone. This is a private affair. I do, however, preach skepticism. Remember that most venerable piece of received medical wisdom — 98.6 degrees as the average adult human temperature? In 1992, three researchers bothered to measure — and found that the conventional wisdom (based on an 1878 German study) was wrong. Normal is 98.2.

Ok, what exactly does that have to do with gluten intolerance?  Aside from the fact that the medical establishment is often wrong.  Here comes the kicker:

Now, if you suffer from celiac disease, you need a gluten-free diet. How many of us is that? Less than 1 percent. And yet supermarket shelves are groaning with products proclaiming their gluten-freedom. Sales are going through the roof.

Another crock. Turns out, according to a massive Australian study of 3,200 products, gluten-free is useless. “The foods can be significantly more expensive and are very trendy to eat,” says Jason Wu, the principal investigator. “But we discovered a negligible difference when looking at their overall nutrition.”

Notice the text I have bolded.  Another crock.  Gluten-free is useless.   Oh boy.  That got my Irish up I can tell you.  So according to him, unless you have celiac disease, it’s all in your head?  Yes, there have been quite a few studies on gluten intolerance.  I found this link  on gluten sensitivity after I read his diatribe on gluten free.  There are thousands more-and it is a very heated debate.

Here is the link from the Australian study if you would like to read it.  They are mostly speaking about how gluten free products are a marketing ploy.  In some cases they are.  But to those of us with gluten intolerance, they are a godsend.  Yes, people fall for fancy packaging and marketing hype, but most of those people are not gluten intolerant and shouldn’t even be buying these products.  But it seems that that is not the population that Mr. Krauthammer is aiming at.

He goes on:

Why then am I not agitating to have this junk taken off the shelves? Because of my other obsession: placebos. For which I have an undying respect, acquired during my early years as a general-hospital psychiatrist. If you believe in the curative powers of something — often encouraged by the authority of your physician — a sugar pill or a glass of plain water can produce remarkable symptom relief. I’ve seen it. I’ve done it.

So I’d never mess with it. If a placebo can alleviate your pain, that’s better than opioids. If going gluten-free gives a spring to your step, why not? But please, let the civility go both ways. Let the virtuous Fitbit foodie, all omega-3’d and gluten-free, drop the self-congratulatory smugness. And I promise not to say it’s all in his head.

So what he’s saying here is gluten free foods are a placebo?  That it’s all in our heads?  That he puts gluten intolerance in the same category as fish pills and vitamin C, according to his article.   Wow.  I wonder what he is basing this information on?  One study.  One very flawed study if you ask me.  Yes some people are gluten free because they think it is “healthy”.  But instead of singling them out, he is aiming at people with gluten intolerance.  At least that is my take on it.  And how would he even say that he would “take this junk” off the shelves?  Really….

So my loyal readers, I guess we should have our heads examined.  After all,  a glass of water or a sugar pill should fix us right up!   I am assuming he knows no-one with a gluten intolerance issue.

Articles like this are why it is so hard for those of us on gluten free diets-those of us not out of choice but out of necessity of health- to be taken seriously.

My mission here in writing these posts, and the ebook I am following it with, is to be an advocate for those who are told “it’s all in your  head”.  It is not, I assure you.  It’s in your belly, your joints and your everyday life.

Stick to your guns, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!





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