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It’s very hard to totally avoid gluten

OK, full disclosure to start: I am a celiac, and I’ve known I have celiac disease (CD) since 1974 – yes, I was just 3 years old at the time of diagnosis (OK, maybe 5).

When I was first diagnosed with CD through a pretty traumatic small bowel biopsy ( I think the doc who did mine really was just “practicing” medicine), no one really knew much about CD, especially, I’d say in adults, so I had to become a virtual self-taught expert in what I could and couldn’t tolerate or should or shouldn’t ingest.

Back then CD was still said to be an “allergy” to gluten, rather than what we now know it to be, namely a toxic reaction to gluten ingestion, and one of the first things that became very clear to me is that although everyone was telling me to “avoid” ingesting gluten, it was in fact very very very very hard to totally avoid gluten entirely.

So even if I gave up beer (easy to do for me, I always preferred wine anyway) and wheat pasta and most breads and pastries (much much harder for me to give up, I must admit), it was still really hard to avoid gluten because it was so present in so many foods or food products that because of archaic labelling laws (promoted by food manufacturers and cow-towed to by cowering government health agencies which were meant to protect consumers but seemed to prefer protecting industry) didn’t have to list that they might contain gluten.

Fore example, do you know what is present in partially hydrogenated protein?

Me neither, and probably the government has no idea either.

That said, food labelling has gotten much better, thank god, although it could still use a lot of improvement, but even with the best labelling laws, anyone with a brain can still readily see how easy it is for so many food products to be “contaminated” with gluten, in large part because unless a food product is made in a very strict gluten-free environment with dedicated equipment that only works with gluten-free foods, there is always a small chance of spillover from non-gluten-free foods, hence the now-thankfully ubiquitous warning that goes something like this: “This product was made on equipment that was also used on wheat products”.

So no surprise at all that a recent study found that even those CD people who believe they are following a very strict GF diet are still exposed to small amounts of gluten on a regular basis.

So here’s the thing: if you are a celiac, this report doesn’t mean you should totally give up the game because you will never win.

To you – to me – gluten is toxic, and the more of it we ingest, the worse our prognosis, in many different ways.

What it does mean, though, is that you shouldn’t be too hard on yourself if you’re less than perfect at this attempt to avoid gluten – it’s just very hard to do but you must still try to the best of your ability.

And it also means that researchers in CD really need to come up with a treatment – some kind of medication, most likely – that will relieve the impossible burden of totally avoiding gluten intake.