“Moderation in all things, especially moderation.”
--Ralph Waldo Emerson
These days, the term "gluten-free" elicits strong emotions from those that hear it. On one end of the spectrum are the "obnoxious eco and health conscious constantly on their soapbox." On the other end are the "unconscious consumers of toxins." These are obviously caricatures of those on opposite sides of the very loud debate. However, I've found a surprisingly low amount of actual unbiased research on the subject, given the magnitude of publications about it online and in print.
Here is a short version of my gluten-free story: I have had a history of digestive issues since I was very young. Recently, after many visits to the GI doctor and what felt like a million tests, I've discovered that my body can't tolerate gluten. If you are interested, contact me because I LOVE to talk about my symptoms… However, since most of it falls into the "TMI" category, I won't go into much detail about here. I have since cut it out of my diet and feel better than I ever thought I could.
Although I will likely talk more about the testing and discovery process at some later point, it is important for me to introduce the subject to my few faithful readers in the context of being very moderate about the issue. What I mean by this, is that I know that my body can't eat any wheat; however, I am not here to judge those of you who enjoy the convenience, deliciousness, and even health benefits of wheat products. The truth is, there are so few Truths out there. I find myself constantly in awe of how new discoveries are often contradicting old beliefs, or how nuanced every issue is. Take this incredible TED talk* that teaches us that stress may actually be good for you, or recall the no-fat diet days of not so long ago.
Do I think that wheat isn't good for some people? Absolutely--I am a prime example of that and I know that a lot of people feel like they have more energy as a result of a gf diet. Wheat may also be inflammatory and difficult on the digestive system. However, I also think that whole grains can be a good source of protein and fiber, not to mention a cost-effective way to fulfill the dietary needs of people all around the world. In the book, Wheat Belly, William Davis puts forth the theory that a lot of our digestive and heath problems are related to the fact that modern-day "wheat" looks nothing like the wheat product our ancestors consumed. Tucked into one of his chapters, he mentions that this modified high-yield Frankenstein wheat is also what allowed us to alleviate starvation around the world (Chapter 2). What a fact to gloss over in the debate about being gluten-free, right? Talk about important trade-offs to consider!
One of my teachers, Carrie Owerko, often says that "the truth is somewhere in the middle" about both asana practice and life. To me, this is applicable about what other people choose to eat. So, yes--one day, science may be able to answer whether it is good for us to eat wheat or not. I think we universally agree that eating rat poison, for example, is not great for our bodies. However, until then, I will be both gluten free and non-judgemental about your life and food choices.
*Seriously watch this TED talk about our conceptions of stress. It might change your life, or at least cause you to consider that conventional truths may not be as true as we thought.