The sin of gluteny

Joe Bob Briggs is going to explain this, just this once:

Gluten is a Latin word meaning “glue” and it’s the substance that makes dough elastic so we can shape it into bread, noodles, grits, tortillas, cakes, soy sauce, pies, beer, pretzels, macaroni, bagels, candy, cereal, croutons, lunch meat, salad dressing, potato chips, soup, and Belgian waffles. You might have noticed something about that particular food group. It’s stuff that tastes good.

But because we live in a masochistic bulimic anorexic food-hating universe of nutzoid crusaders who want to sell us colon scrapers and Lake Titicaca Quinoa Seeds, we have to get rid of it precisely because it tastes good.

What’s that? Oh, yes. Celiac disease. I know someone who has it. Probably so do you. That leaves, what, 198 people we know who don’t?

Then again, I’m having a snit these days because I have to push around a metal frame to get anywhere and I can’t force people to open the door for me.



  1. Dr. Weevil »

    7 December 2016 · 5:31 pm

    If you ever need or want to hurt the feelings of someone with celiac disease, I know the perfect present. The H-Mart chain of Asian grocery stores in the Baltimore and D.C. areas sells something called ‘gluten balls’. No, I don’t know what they are either, but that’s what it says on the package. It doesn’t matter. With bad presents as well as good ones, it’s the thought that counts.
    If you do decide to do this, check with a lawyer first. Giving gluten balls to a celiac patient is probably a hate crime in some states.

  2. fillyjonk »

    7 December 2016 · 5:34 pm

    I have some genuine (not deadly, fortunately, though you don’t want to be in a small room with me the next day) food intolerances (carrots, celery, cucurbits) and so I tend to roll my eyes a bit at the people who decide that they can get Special Attention by claiming to have a condition they do not.

    And crikey, I’d open doors for you. (I get doors opened for me regularly but I think that’s because I have two X chromosomes and live in a culture where that sort of thing is still done). But yeah, I open doors for anyone who is burdened in some way.

  3. fillyjonk »

    7 December 2016 · 5:36 pm

    That said: I did know someone, back in the Dark Ages of the 1980s, who genuinely DID have celiac disease. There were far fewer suppliers to the celiac patient in those days. She never traveled without her own food, because she knew for sure what was safe. . (And she ate a LOT of gluten-free rice cakes, which probably got extremely tedious)

  4. ETat »

    7 December 2016 · 8:17 pm

    I can’t believe it – you asked somebody to help you and open the door for you, and they refused?

  5. CGHill »

    7 December 2016 · 8:32 pm

    It’s not that they turn me down; it’s that I hate to ask. (Never had to before.)

  6. PJ »

    8 December 2016 · 4:46 am

    I totally get why this seems so irritating from the outside. But you’re putting the blame on individuals when it really goes to corporations creating ‘novel’ forms of proteins — and I’m only talking about agriculture here, not even GMO — that get used in the food supply, which is heavily promoted toward grains since the 70s for a few reasons, and like any experiment, our people (the subjects) are simply showing the results. For various reasons I won’t bore you with the “quantity” of gluten in bread today would be the equivalent of eating some huge number of whole loaves a day, a few hundred years ago. Nobody would argue that’d be crazy, it’s just that now we can make plants that make it possible. Combine with a culture grain-based, and then with a medical culture over-obsessed with antibiotics (our gut biome is very affected by that). You get a bell curve result, of people for whom their digestive system is greatly affected. Wheat has some other molecular components that actually can harm the integrity of the intestines that have to digest it, though of course it’s always context (e.g. how much resistance the body has to that, for other reasons).

    So when this starts happening, it causes ‘inflammation.’ This can be minor to major and it affects health across the board. For most people probably just increases the probabilities of whatever illness or disease they’re already developing anyway. For some people is substantial enough that they really notice it consciously. If the problem persists and they keep ingesting it, symptoms can worsen. When proteins get outside the digestive system into the body, they are attacked as foreign invaders (they aren’t supposed to be in those other areas). This can bring on auto-immune responses where the body starts attacking parts of itself. If the digestive tract gets so F’d up that it literally starts to atrophy, then a celiac test will find the atrophied villi and the diagnosis is official. But there is a huge spectrum of experience and time before things get that bad, and in a perfect world people would recognize they are having a problem with gluten, stop eating it, and never get there.

    When people abruptly stop eating all gluten (esp. if they were eating lots before so the ‘change’ is more noticeable), all kinds of symptoms vanish they never realized were from the gluten-related inflammation. I am using all examples of people I personally know here. Obviously this might not happen for everyone — only if gluten-related inflammation were the cause, and it isn’t always — but this is real. Like arthritis or bursitis dramatically reduces or vanishes. Like mystery rashes or facial complexion problems (in adults) reduces or vanishes. A friend had his thumbs ache for decades, he always thought it was something about ‘during the war’ but when he stopped eating wheat (only because his wife did), a few weeks later the pain he’d had for most his adult life just vanished, go figure. There’s endless accounts like this. That doesn’t mean he won’t eat gluten now, only that he tries to eat a lot less.

    I had severe asthma, severe allergies, and acid reflux I thought would kill me. Officially diagnosed and all. One day I went on a low-sugar eating plan which also ruled out very many non-fiber carbohydrates (as they become sugar in the body). This was years ago before all the modern stuff existed for eating like that. I mostly lived on just meats and salads, eggs and cheese and a few nuts and berries. After less than two weeks, my asthma was gone. Three inhalers, no longer needed. My allergies were gone. Benadryl probably lost shareholder money from how much I quit buying, haha. Change of seasons and new soaps no longer set me off. My acid reflux was gone and that was a huge difference in my life. I had no idea what caused this, I thought it had to do with the lowered sugar in the diet or something. But eventually I came to find out, through experimentation and reading and more experimenting, that it was specific to gluten (the protein in wheat and some other things) and glutin (the protein in rice and some other things).

    After that, once I was ‘clean’, I could track it, and then be able to predict it. I can eat gluten (wheat) and in ~12-24 hours I will have some lung asthma, an occasional cough, for about 24-36 hours. For glutin (rice) it’s about ~4-8 hours to onset, and a little more extreme, but it passes faster. If I keep eating it consistently, the time to onset is zero since symptoms are chronic, and if it goes on for a few weeks the acid reflux starts coming back. My complexion, sense of mental clarity, some energy, etc. also improved but those seem minor comparatively.

    So it turned out I had a heart valve defect I was born with but at a certain age, hit a certain point of degradation that really started affecting my energy and health (I didn’t know why at the time). The effects of gluten/glutin got much worse for me, until literally eating even a little in a can of chili could wreck my health for two days — every muscle/joint in my body ached, my lungs were so filled it was crazy. The effects of this in me and those I know do seem to be highly related to what else is going on in the body, in terms of inflammation. It was to the point of nearly killing me. After open heart surgery and some recovery time, I discovered that gluten/glutin had gone back to their previous level of irritation for me — a delay period, minor symptoms that pass.

    My best friend’s sister is celiac. He was tested but is not, officially. But if he eats gluten once, he feels horrible when he awakens the next day — it’s like a body-ache brain-fog hit-by-a-truck-in-the-night feeling — and if he eats it 2 or 3 times in a week he literally gets horrible gut pain and actual gut bleeding. But he’s not “officially” celiac. And sometimes he can eat very limited amounts, with only moderate symptoms.

    So I think most people who don’t have these issues or who don’t know they do, see people in restaurants who say they don’t want gluten but then maybe eat it, or a little, and it seems like it’s a fashion statement and not real. It doesn’t make you swell up with hives like an allergy would. The symptoms in people tend to come after, and vary in type and degree. Many people are gluten “intolerant” (the common word used) but while they “try to avoid it most the time” sometimes they give in to wanting something yummy with it, knowing they’ll pay the price later. But it makes onlookers think it’s not serious or something. It really is (serious as a health issue). Vastly more people are sensitive to gluten than are full-out ‘celiacs.’

    I might add that people with issues with ‘gluten’ often have other issues with the components of modern wheat aside from that; and that people with gluten sensitivity, also often respond to other grains. (I react to nearly every grain except corn, which for some reason doesn’t bother me.) But most people NEVER KNOW they have any reaction, even though research is starting to show that nearly everyone does, though much of it is under the radar (internal, not conscious). The thing is, we eat this stuff so constantly in our diet — even if you don’t eat grain, it’s in soups and salad dressings and spice mixes and most retail foods — that we never actually get “off” it for a few weeks solidly, in order to notice when we go back “on” it that symptoms suddenly re-appear that we didn’t know were related.


  7. CGHill »

    8 December 2016 · 10:55 am

    “Novel forms” invariably, to me anyway, seem to be intended primarily to cut costs; there’s no reason to think they’re actually nutritious. (See also: high-fructose corn syrup.)

    In 63 years, I’ve discovered one actual allergy I might have. Doesn’t, of course, mean there will be no others, should I live past 63.

  8. McG »

    9 December 2016 · 2:14 pm

    Mrs. McG’s stepsister has it. She takes it upon herself to know what she can and can’t have, and if she’s at a restaurant she’s never been to she asks the server nicely about gluten.

    If she isn’t satisfied with the response from either the server or the management she very nicely orders something she knows won’t have it, leaves a suitable tip, and never goes back there again.

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