When the Gluten Free Community is Part of the Problem

I'll start by saying this: I am so supremely grateful for the support I've received from the gluten free and celiac community.

Gluten Dude took me under his wing when I was a brand new blogger. People from all over the world rallied when I was hospitalized for celiac complications. I've even met some of my best friends over the web. 

That's not to say, however, that the gluten free community is perfect. In fact, the more celiac support Facebook groups I join, the more apparent the cracks in our community have become. 

When the Gluten Free Community is Part of the Problem

What am I talking about?

Celiacs who attack their fellow gluten free eaters for craving a pop tart or chicken wings

Celiacs (or gluten intolerants, etc) who believe that their diet is the only way a celiac should eat and can heal

Celiacs who promote "gluten free" products without giving full disclosure of past issues with cross contamination or who promote products that don't truly align with their brand.

Celiacs who "cheat"...and spread the message that a "little gluten" doesn't hurt. (It does).

The list goes on and on - as one should expect, I suppose. After all, we all may have celiac disease but we're also just humans with our own faults, blind spots and egos. 

When the Gluten Free Community is Part of the Problem

Even with these problems, I would never want to leave the online celiac community. However, I have hopes that an even stronger one will emerge in the future. One where:

We remember to be empathetic. Sure, you may believe that people should just "get over" their cravings for old gluten-filled favorites. (Yes, I've read comments that said that). And, maybe 364 days out of the year, they do. But cravings are a part of being human...and, to put it bluntly, they sometimes suck. I've cried over not being able to eat a "regular" tortilla before - and I probably will again. So I won't look down on another celiac (especially a newly diagnosed one) for doing the same. 

We accept that different gluten free diets work for different celiacs. As restrictive as the gluten free diet may initially sound, there are countless options - and countless different "sub-diets." Maybe following the autoimmune paleo protocol works best for you. Maybe you prefer eating a plant based diet. Or maybe you eat intuitively, enjoying plenty of fruits and veggies but also your fair share of processed gluten free foods. Sure, if a celiac asks, I hope we tell them what diet works for us. We just need to remember that what works for us isn't necessarily the golden rule for every celiac. The only requirement? Eat gluten free! For your health and other people's understanding of celiac.

When the Gluten Free Community is Part of the Problem
I've eaten all of these through the years since my diagnosis...
and they're all 100% OK!
Similarly, we don't shame people for their"unhealthy" choices. We're lucky. Compared to years ago, celiacs can find gluten free alternatives to most treats, from cake to cookies to pop tarts. Does that mean celiacs should live off these processed foods? Probably not. Does that mean you should shame a mom for looking for gluten free chicken nuggets or cacao puffs for her celiac child? Heck no. 

We - as bloggers - remember who we're really serving: the gluten free community. As my blog has grown, I've certainly experienced my fair share of tempting offers from companies. I'll admit that, in the beginning, I even (wrongly) promoted products that I didn't totally love. The more readers I've connected with, though, the more I've remembered that I am a spokesperson for the celiac community, no matter how quiet my voice may be. I have a responsibility - to myself and my readers - to remember my blog's mission as I'm making partnership and sponsored post decisions. Sure, making money is nice. But being a trusted figurehead of the celiac community is priceless

This isn't meant to be a negative post or one that bashes certain people in our community. I simply want to raise awareness of some of the issues I've observed - and share the hopes I have for the celiac community's future. 

When the Gluten Free Community is Part of the Problem

The truth is, living gluten free is hard enough as it is. On a daily basis, we need to find safe food and, more often than not, deal with the confused or judgemental stares of strangers - or even friends and family - who don't understand our dietary needs. We don't need our fellow celiacs/gluten-intolerants/food allergy warriors in arms adding to our load

When I was in the hospital, chained to the bed with an IV in my arm and a feeding tube up my nose, I found solace in the support of celiacs from around the world. Let's make sure we can give new or future celiacs that same lifeline


Have you ever been or witnessed dietary shaming? What are you most thankful for in the celiac community? Tell me your thoughts below! 




Comments

  1. Thank you for writing this post. As someone living with celiac for more than 30 years and blogging for more than 10, I have seen a really negative shift in our community. Back in the day, I was so grateful to get support from the early celiac blogging community. Unfortunately today, I feel like the community is so driven by misinformation and money that it hurts those of us really looking for help. I will continue to reach out to the supportive network of celiacs that I have built over the years and avoid the haters. Thanks again!

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    Replies
    1. Thank you so much for your comment, Erin. I was a little scared to publish this, so I'm glad someone could relate! Keep on kickin' butt and making the celiac/gluten free community a better place :)

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