#FREEGLUTEN

by Steven Behling


I am not gluten-free.  I do not have gluten sensitivity, and my life has thus far not been made more difficult due to the very real issue of celiac disease faced by approximately one percent of the world's population.  I wish I was more physically fit, and have genuine moments of irritability, depression, exhaustion, and...very rarely...gastrointestinal distress (NOTE TO SELF: Eating an entire frozen pepperoni pizza covered in those little chili flakes is a late-night endeavor best left to one's early twenties rather than one's mid-thirties).  Thanks to the influence of nefarious genes, I've been known to reduce certain foods in my diet in response to a doctor's encouragement: cheese, meats, and other cholesterol-raising delights, and added things like fish oil and niacin to raise my HDL levels.  I try my best to make these changes quietly, politely eat the food others have labored with love to share with me, and give thanks that, as of right now, I am not forbidden by my medical team from eating or drinking any particular food or beverage.  As time goes on, I remain resigned to the belief that healthy living is rooted in a balanced diet, exercise, sleep, and meaningful connections with others, and that removing entirely one aspect of diet, be it fat, salt, cholesterol, sugar, artificial coloring, is not likely to produce lasting positive results.  

A number of my friends, family, acquaintances, and neighbors have made the decision to "go gluten-free."  That is their right, and if they feel it is the best decision for them, far be it from me to treat them like a goose whose liver is being primed for foie gras and shove pasta, soy sauce, and Twinkies down their gullet until they concede.  After all, it must be terribly difficult for them to endure the eye-rolling and loud sighs if/when they say condescending things like "my body just feels better when I don't put poisonous things like gluten in it" and "oh, sorry, no, I can't eat [that delicious thing you just spent half the morning making for me] because I'm making a choice to listen to and respect my body."

Nevertheless, I so appreciate when clear, science- and fact-based food scientists, physicians, chefs, and journalists dig deeper and examine other, more credible explanations for the burgeoning rise of obesity, heart disease, cancer, and other physical ailments in today's society.  "Against the Grain," a recent New Yorker article by Michael Specter does just that, and it's worth your time and consideration.  In the article, Specter carefully explores the possibility that FODMAPs and the addition of vital wheat gluten to speed up food production and enhance "quality control" may be more responsible for your digestive discomfort than a simple slice of homemade bread, the dough for which you let rise overnight before baking.  Now if you'll please excuse me, it's getting late and I have a date with my kitchen.