Zoiks Skoob! There’s a scary sounding ingredient lurking within our food! Double-check those Skooby Snacks because they may very well contain a protein called GLUTEN! WooOOOOoooOOo!
Running in fear from this ingredient people are seeking gluten-free diets. This is usually a dietary restriction reserved for people with celiac disease or wheat allergies but all-a-sudden people everywhere are going gluten-free, especially vegans. Gluten is a protein found in wheat and it’s harmless unless you have these specific medical conditions. For more info about this I’ll point to a post by Skeptoid: Gluten Free Diets and one by Skeptical Vegan: Gluten-free Faddists. So why are vegans in particular going gluten-free? I have a few hypotheses.
Alternative Medicine Quacks
Years ago I noticed a trend. Vegans were getting diagnosed by alt med quack practitioners (read: “nutritionists”) who were prescribing gluten-free diets as a panacea. Using allergies and supplements as a placebo are a great low-risk way of flying under the radar of medical responsibility. The That Mitchell and Webb Look show satirized this in their skit: Lifestyle Nutritionists
The beauty of using diet change as a diagnosis is that if the client feels different, then it usually feels better. If the client feels worse then it’s a detox reaction or they are doing it wrong. Either way, the chance of it going wrong is far less than it going great especially in the short term. On top of all that muscle testing has gotten popular as a form of testing for allergies which has no scientific validity.
Well if Dr. Joe Quack can get some sheepskin from an online diploma mill why not skip the middle-duck altogether and quack myself? Going through the newage rawfood wringer on the subjectiveness of diet I’ve fell for the confirmation bias long and hard enough to recognize it at a glance. The symptoms are vague enough that anybody can convince themselves they have them or just got rid of them. Getting diagnosed for real with you know, science, is an arduous and not-fun process. I don’t blame people for wanting to avoid it but I will blame them for jumping to the conclusion even if they are fooling themselves. As Richard Feyman said:
The first principle is that you must not fool yourself – and you are the easiest person to fool.
Cuz it’s Vegan Stoopit!
Another aspect of the gluten-free fad is that it’s often lumped in with other sensitivities like dairy thereby making it vegan. In the same way rawfood restaurants are “vegan” here also we have a conflation of interests. If you’re going to make a gluten-free restaurant why not try to maximize your market and include all types of allergies? Oh but it doesn’t just stop at allergies though. If it’s good for people with allergies then it must be good for all, no? The owner of a local gluten-free, dairy-free restaurant here took it to the (interest-conflicting) extreme and argued that actually everybody is allergic to gluten but most don’t recognize the symptoms. Yeah, wow.
Fancy Word Hurts Brainz
Gluten is also just a scary word, isn’t it? No wonder the word “seitan” was invented….although that one probably freaks out alotta religious folk. A local vegan restaurateur openly expressed that they would rather eat a turkey animal than that scary vital wheat g-g-g-gluten!
“11/26/2010 Tofurkey (tofu, vital wheat gluten and expeller pressed canola oil). No thank you. I’d rather eat a real turkey or human.”
They were so afraid of gluten that they would rather take an animal’s life. Before I ever made such a claim you can bet I would look a little further into the issue. Another example of how the lack of critical thinking can cause harm. This also reminds me of dihydrogen monoxide and how if you call something common like water by a science-y sounding name it becomes scary and bad.
Harder-core than Thou
‘Ya know, all those vegans who eat seitan are poseurs. Here they are trying to have their meat and eat it too by mocking up animal flesh but only hardcore vegans eschew any references to animal foods. Plus it’s just so processed, non-organic and GMO. I mean what kinda monster eats that sick shit?!‘
Isn’t that so ironic? All these vegan dishes that use gluten to substitute for animal flesh and even that isn’t vegan enough. Soon seitan won’t even be an option and vegans will have made it that much harder for others to go vegan. Isn’t that’s what it’s all about too? “Go vegan” indeed, how?
Although, this should be a boon for the people who actually have a real sensitivity. All these products are being developed for them, isn’t that great? Well except for people who actually have celiac disease. Food is like their medicine and no, not in the goofy newage way vegans often espouse. For real here. Like they WILL INDEED get real non-subjective and negative life altering effects. When faddists come in and water down the standards it can put them in harms way. For example, reportedly a chef in New York admitted on his Facebook profile that he’s been secretly serving people requesting gluten-free pasta high-gluten pasta instead to no ill-effect.
“Gluten free is bullshit!! Flour and bread have been a staple of life for thousands, THOUSANDS of years. People who claim to be gluten intolerent [sic] dont [sic] realize that its [sic] all in there [sic] disturbed little heads. People ask me for gluten free pasta in my restaurant all the time, I tell em sure, Then I serve serve em our pasta, Which I make from scratch with high gluten flour. And you know what? nothing, NOTHING! ever happens! People leave talking about how good they feel gluten free and guess what, They just had a full dose! Idiots!”
That is an extreme example true, but it illustrates how co-opting this diet can create an environment where victims become more victimized. Celiac is a serious disease and one form won’t even allow for contact with skin. Contamination is always a danger and people must remain vigilant. Talk about label readers, these poor people must put vegans to shame. I really do sympathize with people why actually have this condition. My angst over this diet fad is in part in support and recognition of them. Fetishisizing this condition is insensitive, making light of their plight. Hypocritical behavior for a population that claims a compassionate and ethical lifestyle.
So, the irony in all of this is that the more vegans adopt gluten-free diets the more they:
- Make vegan diets even harder by demonizing a great meat substitute as well as any food with gluten.
- Take business away from companies who make these vegan substitutes and gluten-containing products.
- Obfuscate issues of veganism by associating it with a disease.
If vegans really wanted to help animals and stay respectful of people with a serious medical condition I hope they think twice about jumping aboard the G-free bandwagon. Don’t be afraid of the gluten-ghost in wheat. Enjoy life a little and eat that seitan already, you can use the protein. 😉