Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Glutenous Maximus

Remember a few months back when I managed to piss off every pothead in the continental United States? Well, that was nothing compared to the wrath I'm now drawing from the celiac disease-suffering community.

My silly little rant yesterday about Jennifer Esposito's fight with CBS over what she claims is the network's discrimination against her because of her struggle with celiac must've been posted on a celiac support website somewhere because over the past several hours I've been pummeled with tweets from people with handles like "@GlutenDude" and "@WheatFree" letting me know in no uncertain terms what an asshole I am and how I should do my research before running my mouth off. Mary Beth Williams is also getting an earful from people who seem to think that we both were ignorantly dismissive of what's in reality a very serious condition.

Look, I was a dick -- I admit that. It's what I do around here a good portion of the time. But both Mary Beth's and my point wasn't that celiac isn't a real disease and that it doesn't cause pain and lead to lifestyle issues for a lot of people. Our argument was basically that by conflating celiac with the more frivolous aspects of a recent dietary fad, it's people like Esposito who may be diminishing the disease and making it easier for those not affected by it to believe that it's not a big deal. Put it this way: For a lot of people -- certainly the Gwyneth Paltrows of the world -- going gluten-free is a choice and nothing more, while for celiac sufferers it's often a necessity. But if you're one of those people who actually has celiac and you incessantly preach gluten-free to everybody -- irrespective of whether they need it -- by making the claim that it'll make them feel less bloated and icky, you're essentially making it appear as if your reasons for not eating glutens have little to do with the actual disease. You're carelessly combining a serious subject with one that's not at all serious and risking being eyed with suspicion.

A friend of mine said it best in a text to me a few minutes ago: You don't see Michael J. Fox out there talking about how you can lose 20-pounds with Parkinson's.

As for trends in medical diagnoses, they absolutely happen -- and not simply because the medical community becomes more "aware" of the disease. Sure, it becomes aware -- and so do millions of average people who then begin self-diagnosing and going to doctors who, provided it's not deadly serious, often shrug their shoulders, issue a tepid, "Eh, could very well be," and, bingo, you're being treated for the disease, syndrome, disorder, etc. Granted it really gets out of hand when there's a commercial out there telling you to "ask your doctor if you have" whatever-the-hell because Madison Avenue has invented a clever acronymic name for an often bullshit condition that Big Pharma has already created a pill to cure. But inject any medical issue into the pop culture blood stream by way of Oprah, People Magazine, and so on -- inevitably leading to mass-media ubiquity -- and you'll suddenly have everybody in our scared shitless, hypochondriac nation checking WebMD to see if the symptoms fit how they're feeling.

Awareness of a medical condition is often a double-edged sword. That's just how it is and how things work now in our media culture. As for going gluten-free, I stand by my original statement, with one caveat: If you're one of those pretentious assholes who's militant in his or her rejection of glutens -- and you're not suffering from a disease like celiac -- just shut the fuck up and eat already.


JohnF said...

The ability to get your panties in a bunch is not spread out evenly among the populace. Some people are offended WAY more easily than others.

You were perfectly conciliatory in your original post. There's no need to apologize.

Matt said...

Your post was fine. I had no problem understanding what you were saying. However, many people don't parse very well, especially when they think you are attacking their pet cause or perceive a personal slight, real or imagined.

Kim C. said...

This post only punctuates your lack of information about Celiac Disease and Jennifer Esposito's advocacy.

There is not a push by Big Pharma to acknowledge or educate about this disease... BECAUSE THERE IS NO MEDICAL TREATMENT for it! Doctors are reluctant to test for it because there's no financial benefit plus they don't understand it. Most think it only shows up as digestive symptoms. In all actuality, very few Celiacs present with what doctors consider to be 'classic' symptoms.

Ms. Esposito should be applauded for encouraging others to look to their diet to improve their health. She advocates whole foods and proper screenings. I have never read nor heard her say that removing gluten from her diet was a choice or that it was a way to lose weight.

I tell every person I know with vague or unrelated health issues to consider gluten toxicity and Celiac Disease. There are over 200 symptoms of gluten toxicity and only a few are digestive. Its damaging effects can be respiratory,neurological, psychological, reproductive, endocrinological and more. Most diagnoses take ten years!

We shouldn’t “just shut the fuck up” and let doctors continue to prescribe man made methods of masking the causes of illness.

We shouldn’t “just shut the fuck up” and continue gorging ourselves on a jacked up food supply.

Would you tell someone undergoing treatment for melanoma to “just shut the fuck up” and wear some sunscreen? Maybe you would.

To say "just shut the fuck up" tells me you are threatened by the small amount of information you do have about Celiac Disease.

That’s ok. You’re not alone.

I see it every day; people terrified of the fact that I have to thoroughly and carefully examine everything that goes into or on to my body.

It's frightening because deep down we all know we should be doing it.

Chez said...

And with that, I rest my case. I can't thank you enough, Kim. Your sermonizing, moralizing and condescension is more than I could ever have asked for.

JohnF said...

It's as if you put in a call to Central Casting for "preachy, pedantic internet yahoo."

Kim Coachman said...

You get what you give.

C.L.J. said...

I have celiac disease. I have been gluten-free since 2002, and it's made a tremendous difference in my health. I no longer suffer migraines, joint & muscle pains or random stomach cramps. A bottle of Advil used to last me less than a week; it now lasts months.

I will say that I have also made a point of telling others that unless you have celiac disease - or specific allergies to gluten-bearing grains - a gluten free diet has no known health benefits. Gluten isn't intrinsically "bad" for you. It's just a protein that my body rejects. The problem isn't with the food; the problem is my immune system.

On the other hand, all these folks jumping needlessly on the gluten-free bandwagon have vastly improved my quality of living. Ten years ago, there was no gluten-free beer, and no labels to help identify foods that might contain gluten. Now I can choose between four different brands of GF beer. And bread! GF bread used to be this dry, crumbly, mess that tasted like paste. Now there are several kinds of bread that make eating a sandwich a pleasant experience

Also, demand for GF products has reduced the cost of GF products. So not only do I have more choices, they cost less. Heck, I can go out to restaurants now, and order from a GF menu. I feel like a human being again.

For my part, I have to acknowledge that those "pretentious, militant assholes" are doing me a service.

Chez said...

Same thing I said on Facebook. Very fair points, C.

JohnF said...

It's a shame your political posts don't get this much participation.

Start ragging on the silly dietary proselytizing of celebrities, however, and the shitstorm begins.

Chez said...

The political stuff gets much more FB, Twitter and email reaction these days.

Tom said...

People sure are defensive about their pet disabilities.

My girlfriend has coeliacs. The tiny amount of wheat in soy sauce on sushi is enough to knock her on her ass for a few days, it sucks.

But as far as I can tell, the fact that gluten-free food has become a diet trend in recent years has been *wonderful* for people with coeliacs. Their food choices at restaurants have exploded, and it's gone from never being obvious on the menu (2008ish) to almost always being clearly marked (nowish). At least in my town.

I agree that people are conflating jumping on the fad-diet bandwagon with actually having a dangerous auto-immune disorder. But the fad has actually had some very real benefits for some friends of mine who, when we ate out, often had to BYO or play russian roulette.