I hear “Oh, you’re on that gluten-free kick/trend/fad/thingy” that more times than “please and thank you” when my daughter and I are eating around others. It’s sad, really, that throughout hundreds of fad diets and gimmicks, that the gluten-free lifestyle is sort of looked down upon. Don’t get me wrong–there are products and restaurants that are successful solely because of their gluten-free approach, but I can promise you, too, that their business managers or marketing folks have built them up to be prepared for the crash–the end of the craze. Think Atkins, Pritikin, SouthBeach, etc. When gluten-free is no longer the thing that “all the cool kids” are doing.
I’m happy it’s trendy right now for the simple fact that it’s easier. It’s much easier to find GOOD pre-made products to buy off the shelf or in a dining establishment, as there are more products to choose from and they have clearly had funding to test more and find recipes that work. Things are labeled more clearly on packaging and in stores as well. And it’s much simpler to order at a restaurant: I don’t get the “you have one eye on your forehead” stare when I make sure that what I’m ordering is free of gluten. I do at times, however, get a very subtle eye-roll as they turn, or sometimes a smirk appears on the person’s face when I place the order and confirm the ingredients. That bothers me. It’s not a trendy buzzword for us: it’s the difference between being holed up at home with a debilitating stomach ache and nausea for days versus, well, not. Think of it like this: it’s very similar to someone being lactose intolerant: it’s not something that could land a person in the hospital, but those who can’t digest lactose found in most dairy products will tell you that it’s no picnic feeling how badly they feel when they consume something that triggers their inability to process and break down lactose.
I don’t expect everyone to understand. There are people who behave this way about other things, and some food sensitivities are more critical than severe pain and nausea. I have a friend whose son is fatally allergic to peanuts. It’s a death sentence for him if he eats anything derived from or containing peanuts. He carries and Epi-pen with him at all times, praying that he’ll never have to use it. But there are people who will roll their eyes when peanut butter isn’t allowed in his classroom to protect him, thinking what, I don’t know. That his family is overreacting? That they just want to make their son feel excluded? That they’re jumping on some peanut-free bandwagon? I don’t understand it, but I don’t have to. I’m grateful that our intolerance isn’t a humongous fear or a terrifying scenario to avoid at all costs. I’m glad that our lifestyle is easily enough adapted. In fact, it forced our hand at eating healthier. We now eat more fresh food, fruits, vegetables and so on. Do I wish that some people would just stop complaining or worrying about what we need to do to feel like normal people because of a change in our diet? Sure…it would be great. But I don’t need it. Besides, our best friends know us, support us, and were our gluten-free mentors when we weren’t sure what to do next or try in order to alleviate the episodes, because they understood being gluten-free before it was a trend.