Thursday, October 2, 2008

Degrees of Free-dom

As I've scoured the Internet, sifting through the posts of other gluten-free bloggers, I've noticed a great degree of variety. Not only in terms of each blogger's unique experiences, recipes, and stories. But also in terms of their degrees of free-dom. What exactly do I mean? This: it seems that seldom is gluten-free the only dietary restriction.

I'll use myself as an example. In addition to my gluten-free diet, I'm also lactose intolerant (since birth), and thanks to a meticulous dietary journal I kept for the first few months of 2007, I've also eliminated caffeine and grapefruit from my diet as well. If you bounce from GF blog to GF blog, you'll find a similarly wide range of free-doms: gluten-free, casein free, dairy free, lactose free, meat free, refined sugar free, nut free, and the list goes on. You get the idea.

In addition to simply adding variety to the family of GF blogs out there, these degrees of free-dom also make a practical difference in the kinds of recipes you're likely to find on a particular blog. Here on NGNP - thanks to my gluten-free plus lactose-free requirement - you won't find much in the way of recipes that use cheese. When we do use cheese (for example, on our pizzas), we use it sparingly, and we opt for mild cheeses like mozzarella (plus a helping of Lactaid).

I've often scratched my head over the whole grapefruit intolerance thing. I know I have it - my dietary journal doesn't lie. But I wondered how common it was, and what the root cause was (grapefruit is known to have a chemical that can interfere with certain medications...could that be the cause?).

In my searching for an answer, I turned up two very interesting articles. The first appeared in 2007 on the BBC News website. A poll conducted by the company YorkTest found that of the 12 million people in the United Kingdom who claim to have a food intolerance, fewer than 25% have actually been formally diagnosed. The article went on to explain that 40% of survey respondents thought it was trendy to be intolerant. Trendy?! The suggested implication was that some people merely thought they were intolerant to something, even though they weren't, and that they were unnecessarily restricting their diets.

The second article came out just two months ago on Medical News Today. YorkTest Labs, the same folks that conducted the survey cited by the BBC in 2007, compiled a list of the top ten food intolerances in the UK. Cows milk (lactose intolerance) came in at Number One, affecting 64% of the population. (That's a lot of people!) Wheat and gluten ranked fourth and sixth, respectively, affecting 34% and 26% of the population. The article also had a list of "friendly fruits," those to which people are least intolerant. Of course, grapefruit was on that list, affecting only 0.5% of the UK population.

I still don't have a definitive answer on the grapefruit intolerance. But whether you've been formally diagnosed or not, and whether you have layers of restrictions or just one, I think there's no doubting that you know when a food just doesn't agree with your body. Gluten-free, lactose free, it doesn't matter what - for the millions of us out there who have a dietary restriction, we don't think we have it, we do have it. And it isn't trendy, either. For us, it's just life, and we make of it what we will...bad or good, ugly or great.

- Pete


Lauren Denneson said...

Great post! I've been noticing that as seems that allergies come in bunches. And, I am always horrified at how many people 'write off' food allergies as trendy. It contributes to my worry over how people will react to my dietary needs. I even read a WebMD article that cites gluten intolerance as trendy!

peterbronski said...

The "trendy" categorization just amazes me. I do think we're seeing a trend, but that's not the same thing as gluten intolerance or Celiacs being trendy. There's no doubt, though, that awareness about gluten intolerance and Celiacs is on the rise, and as that awareness rises, so too does the demand for GF resources, like blogs, recipes, cookbooks, restaurants, products, etc. So we're seeing a trend in GF awareness. But that hardly makes it trendy. Trendy implies something that is hip and cool, and that can fade away over time. Those of us on the GF side of life know, however, that we're committed to this diet for life. From that perspective, it's hardly trend, or a trend. It just is!

Cheers, Pete

Kerrie aka GFShaolin said...

Awesome post. I'm gluten-free, but I'm currently doing the food diary to see what else I'm intolerant to...

peterbronski said...

Thanks Kerrie! Yeah, the food diary is an incredible tool. It was super helpful for me!

Cheers, Pete