Tolerate my Intolerance

There’s been a lot said about gluten and whether eating it is good, bad or indifferent. There isn’t nearly enough discussion about the gluten content of cosmetics and hair spray. I think it would be an interesting panel discussion about whether we should be eating our Maybelline, but alas, no one is having it. The heart of the matter centers around whether or not human beings are able to properly digest gluten, and this has led to some people pursuing gluten-free diets and other people deriding those who choose to be free of this sticky, starchy substance. To really make matters much worse, some people try to interpret research data to support their positions on this matter of great import to someone.

The stark reality is that there are a small number of people who have a genetic autoimmune disorder that produces digestive issues like chronic diarrhea or constipation. These symptoms are exacerbated by consuming gluten protein, which is found in wheat, barley and rye. A few years ago, some studies indicated that consumption of gluten may cause these and similar symptoms in people who do not have the genetic disorder, but rather just a sensitivity to gluten. A very recent study shows that gluten specific sensitivity may not be a separate thing but may be a part of a poor reaction to a group of short chain carbohydrates. The list of possible culprits is long and distinguished and it includes the aforementioned wheat, barley and rye among many others.

Okay, so what exactly is the issue? Well, some people feel better if they don’t eat certain foods. Some people feel fine no matter what they shove down their throats. Some people don’t pay enough attention to how they feel after eating to know either way. Some people often eat until they feel sick. Finally, some people really seem to care a lot about what other people choose to eat. I’ve never understood this phenomenon, but have been on the receiving end of it many times in my life. People take an unhealthy interest in what I eat; actually listening to me order at restaurants, commenting immediately after I order or upon my food’s arrival and then questioning my choices or criticizing them. I don’t know why, because I couldn’t possibly care less about what anyone else eats.

So the crux of the matter is this: Lay people misunderstand the scientific method, misread research results, fail to recognize that any knowledge we have on virtually any subject represents only our current level of understanding and is, and should be subject to change, and really pay too much attention to what other people eat. So if someone chooses not to eat gluten because they’ve heard it might cause bloating, gas, inflammation of the intestines, diarrhea and other such nastiness, or because they just like saying that they’re gluten-free, or because honestly, how exciting is it to eat a bunch of grass, can’t we just be tolerant of their intolerance?

​Wow, these look delicious. I’ll have two with extra gluten please.

gluten

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