For what it's worth: Being gluten free isn't all it's cracked up to be

Have you ever heard of gluten? Of course you have.

Do you know what gluten is? Sure you doóits wheat. Well, itís a protein found in wheat, rye, barley and oats.

Do you know what it means to live on a gluten-free diet? Probably notóunless you or someone incredibly close to you has to do it. Chances are, youíre probably either overestimating or underestimating the side effects.

The gluten free industry is now booming, and there are pros and cons to the trend that seems to be developing around it.

I kicked gluten out of my diet when I was 14 years old. Now, after more than a decade, I find it to be more of a blessing than a curseóthough I havenít always felt this way. Itís taken years for me to learn and accept that my diet will forever require close attention.

The first year or two, I was practically in denial about how sensitive I was. It took my family quite a while to get their mind around it as well. And back then, it wasnít so easy to find gluten-free products in the food store. As a matter of fact, my dependence on the local food store completely dissolved as I began to find more options at smaller, natural food stores. It wasnít ideal, but it was something. My older sister also discovered she could not tolerate gluten. My mother found herself in a determined position to find recipes and natural foods we could eat, and would eat. We experimented with lots of different pastas and baking mixes.

I didnít eat bread for years, unless my mother made it. The first time she made gluten free bread was the first time I had actually eaten homemade bread (with the exception of banana bread). It was thick, and a pain to slice at first, but I quickly got the hang of it. Bread meant sandwiches and toast; normalcy.

Home became my primary source for food. If I wanted it, then I needed to find it or find a way to make it. The same remains true todayófor the most part. Although, I have to say, it is great that food allergies awareness has been raised and there are more options as a result of this. I can find a great deal more to eat in the store and at restaurants than I could in the beginning of my gluten-free journey.

The fore-thought I put into my meals each week when I go shopping is what ultimately has lead me to a healthier lifestyle. My diet mainly consists of whole foods by default, and Iíve learned to cook the majority of them. Iíve also learned to indulge different types of food.

I truly donít feel limited by this diet restriction. Sure, I donít always get what I want exactly when I want itóbut thatís life.

Itís great that everyone knows what gluten isóbut the average person doesnít really get the seriousness of the issue. The more people who do it just because the feel like doing itóthe less serious gluten free foods become. And for those who cannot digestively handle gluten, this is a serious issue.

I could do a stream of similes referencing how sensitive I am. Iíll just choose one. I am so sensitive that if you were to just sprinkle a pinch of breadcrumbs into my mealóI could be sick for days, and I may not even feel the symptoms for a day or two.

It also seems that Ďgluten freeí has become a buzzword due to this misconceived idea that the gluten free diet is healthier. I canít speak to any of that. For me, itís not a choice. And this lack of choice forces me to be more conscious of my diet.

About the Author

Rebecca Blanchard

Rebecca won't hesitate to tell you that she has enjoyed writing throughout her entire life. Born and raised in Pennsylvania, she graduated from the professional writing program of Kutztown University in 2012. Rebecca joined Berks-Mont Newspapers in July of 2012 as editor of The Boyertown Area Times following her internship with the newspaper. In addition to writing, she enjoys traveling and cooking gluten-free foods. Reach the author at rblanchard@berksmontnews.com or follow Rebecca on Twitter: @boyertowntimes.