Viewpoint: Stop pretending gluten is bad for you

Caroline Lindstrom | 2014 Spring Reporter
Caroline Lindstrom | 2014 Spring Reporter
By Caroline Lindstrom

“Oh my gosh, I’m totally gluten-intolerant too!” This statement is heard more than a classic Beatles song these days.

The majority of these claims are made because eating gluten-free is “trendy” and not because this person has a real allergy to wheat. Why people would want to diagnose themselves as being gluten-intolerant is a mystery to me.

Side effects from this ailment include cramps, muscle wasting, vomiting and even nerve damage. These symptoms can lead to depression and mood swings, which can affect your life much longer than right after a meal.

Gluten intolerance culminates from a reaction to proteins in wheat, barley or rye. This reaction leads to inflammation in the small intestine and causes malabsorption of nutrients. Celiac disease does not have any cure besides eliminating wheat and flour from your diet.

Therefore, if you claim to be gluten-intolerant but stick a fluffy dinner roll in your mouth, don’t be surprised when I punch you in the face. A diabetic wouldn’t skip on taking his insulin, so why do these people skip on the wheat-free diet?

Everyone wants to be seen as a healthy eater, but when it’s test week and you’re sleep-deprived, it’s back to the Whataburger drive-thru. These phonies are the roots of my trust issues and make a mockery of actual gluten-intolerant suffers.

The diet for a gluten-intolerant person eliminates breads, pasta, cakes and most sauces. If you say you’re allergic to wheat, I expect you to chow down on a salad as friends gorge themselves with delicious chicken fried steak. People ask if I ever have a bite of something I’m not supposed to eat, and the answer is no. I don’t enjoy making my body implode.

I, along with the real gluten-intolerant students, have to figure out whether the dining hall meals will be gluten-free or not. The sweet workers who try to convince me that whole wheat pasta is the same at gluten-free pasta are the start of our struggles.

In 2012 Baylor was named one of 14 colleges “going above and beyond” in providing gluten-free items. Although gluten-free items are said to be provided, their supply is not consistent.

“No ma’am. You can have the whole wheat pasta, I know.” Well actually, that’s what I’m allergic to, so I’m not sure we’re on the same page.

Next, the quesadilla server refuses to cut up some chicken to put it on rice.

After I’m forced to eat grass for most meals, my options for desserts are limited. I can’t eat cookies or the Rice Krispie treats they make from cereal, so I pack gluten-free ice cream cones in my backpack. These are the precautions I go through to ensure I’m not eating wheat.

I hope one day I can walk into a dining hall and know at least one dish is gluten-free. I can’t risk the servers guessing whether they’re holding regular soy sauce or gluten-free soy sauce. I have to assume all sauces contain gluten because that information is not given anywhere. It would make eating easier if the staff understood what gluten was and what all it may be in.

If you have never had an experience like one above, you’re probably not gluten-intolerant. I realize carrying ice cream cones in my backpack is extreme, but so is a gluten-free diet. Just because you’re limiting the number of grilled cheeses you have does not mean you’re on a gluten-free diet.

Caroline Lindstrom is a junior journalism major from Carrollton. She is a reporter for The Lariat.