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We live in a time when people are obsessed with food. There's more than one network on television completely dedicated to different kinds of food. There are numerous cooking competition shows, even one that has kids competing to be the best chefs. It seems like people didn't even care about food before the millennium. Obviously some did, but if you look at history, it seems (to me anyway) that we live in a time when people think about the food they eat way more than they used to. I think that is great, as people should be interested in what they are putting into their bodies, but there are some downsides, especially as a waiter. One of my biggest peeves is the gluten allergy. I realize that it is a real thing, and a real horrible thing, but I also know that not as many people who claim to have this allergy actually have it.
When I first started working in the food service industry back in the 90's, I never heard of allergies, really. I would come across the occasional lactose intolerant person, but had some told me they were allergic to gluten in 1996, I would not have known what they were talking about. I would have made some joke about them mispronouncing the word "glutton" and then told them to maybe eat less next time and then they wouldn't be allergic. Or some other "deadly sin" joke. Nowadays, as a server, you hear at least one person a night say they are allergic to gluten. So, because of that and because of this blog post, I went down various rabbit holes related to food allergies and was very surprised at the results. There are, of course, one thousand and one conspiracy theories about what is causing this huge spike in food allergies over the past 30 years, and this being the internet, you really have to cross reference a lot to figure out what is true and what is pseudoscience. Even then, you are left pretty much right back where you started.
Let me backtrack for a second. Gluten allergies at the worst is called Celiac disease. When people with Celiac disease eat gluten, their body mounts an immune response and attacks the small intestine, causing horrible pain in the small intestine. This damages the small intestines and blocks it from absorbing nutrients, leading to larger problems, including anemia, migraines, miscarriages, and even intestinal cancer. The Celiac Foundation (which was only started in 1990) claims that Celiac disease is hereditary and is passed down from generation to generation. But the Foundation's website doesn't tell you how one develops a gluten allergy to pass down to your kids, like bad teeth and acne, so I had to wade through the muck and mire that is the internet.
I googled "Gluten allergies 1990's" because I figured it was in the 90's that things started spiking (as I had not heard of a gluten allergy in the actual 90's and the Celiac Foundation didn't start until then). One of the first articles to come up was a 2013 study by an independent scientist and an MIT professor that you can read here. It's called "Glyphosate, pathways to modern disease II" and I read a lot of it, although not all of it. In the article, it maintains that Glyphosate, the main ingredient in RoundUp, the common most fertilizer in America is the direct culprit in the spike in Celiac disease and gluten intolerance in general. The article goes on to say that this Glyphosate is not only the main culprit for Celiac disease but a host of other diseases from cancer right on down. This made sense to me, as RoundUp was introduced in the mid 70's so by the time kids from that era started having kids (the 90's) they would have had ingested tons of Glyphosate in their Wonderbread peanut butter and fluff sandwiches. Thus, they would have passed down their gluten intolerance to their kids, and thus a gluten intolerance epidemic is formed. However, upon further reading, I found out that the article is mostly false and filled with so many "ifs, "mights," and "could be's" that it is not be taken seriously. And yet, it is the first thing to pop up when you google "gluten allergies 1990's" and is published on the National Center for Biotechnology Information site, which leads me to believe that anyone looking for a good gluten allergy conspiracy theory (and aren't we all, really?) can find all they need to know about the horrors of RoundUp in one site, and have it be totally believable because the website seems so legitimate. Also, when you think about possible culprits for disease, fertilizer seems like a pretty clear evil doer, so when you read something like RoundUp is causing everything from Celiac disease to autism, no one would blink an eye. The problem is that Glyphosate is very low in toxicity and breaks down in the soil in an extremely fast rate, making contact with your Wonderbread very unlikely.
So where is this spike in gluten allergies coming from? The internet is filled with contradicting articles and theories, and the food service industry simply waves it all off as a giant lie that difficult customers on a diet use as an excuse to eat gluten free so they can fit into those jeans they used to wear in college. And that's the sad truth about it. You might have Celiac disease, and I am sorry to hear about that. Beer is awesome, and so is bread, and so are a bunch of other things that contain gluten. I feel bad that you risk your health if you come into contact with something that is going to affect your ability to have kids. I also hope that science can figure out why this disease has essentially tripled in the last 30 years, and can figure out a way to stop it. Imagine if they never did figure it out, and one day the whole planet was gluten free, many generations from now. No more wheat, no more beer, no more bread, no more cookies, no more muffins, no more pasta, no more tortillas, no more gravy, no more cereal, no more soy sauce. Maybe we'll be better off. Until then, the next beer's on me!*
*Not true. I think you still owe me one from that other time.