Being allergic to gluten is the new black. Apparently. Just about everywhere I go, I hear people say they ‘can’t eat gluten. It makes me feel bloated’.

My favourite bit is when they next say ‘I know EXACTLY how it feels to have diabetes and not be able to eat sugar. When I eat a piece of bread containing gluten I get bloated. I feel really uncomfortable.’ Usually I ignore them whilst I mentally picture myself strangling them until they admit they’re stupid.

The other day I forgot. I snapped ‘actually you don’t know AT ALL what it’s like to have diabetes. I do. I have it. And I can eat sugar. And your perceived little bit of discomfort when you eat bread? Believe me; it’s NOTHING like living with diabetes’.

A couple of years ago, we held a diabetes and coeliac information session as part of Diabetes Australia – Vic’s World Diabetes Day activities. Prior to this event, I had only a basic understanding of coeliac disease which basically consisted of me dutifully having a screening blood test every couple of years which, fortunately for me, has always come back negative. I was fascinated to hear about just how meticulous people with diagnosed coeliac disease have to be in their avoidance of gluten. Different toasters…different tubs of margarine. A crumb of gluten-containing bread can cause symptoms.

After this information session, my tolerance of people being ‘gluten intolerant’ went from about 1.2 out of 10 to, oh, I don’t know, minus one squillion.

At Christmas last year, I sat at a table laden with the most incredible, delectable food imaginable. Everyone in the family had contributed their specialty. A veritable feast! ‘Where’s the gluten free bread?’ someone asked. My head snapped around to hear who had asked that question.

Now, my family collects autoimmune conditions as others collect china cats, so I thought that perhaps someone had been diagnosed with coeliac disease. ‘I’ll have some of that when you’re done’, said someone else. ‘Me too. I get bloated when I eat wheat,’ said another. ‘Does everyone here coeliac disease all of a sudden?’ I asked, trying desperately to keep the contempt out of my voice. I don’t think I succeeded, judging by the sideways glance my sister threw my way. ‘Yeah. Maybe. Well, not diagnosed, but you know, I feel bloated when I eat gluten,’ said one.

There were general sounds of agreement from three others at the table. “Oh yes,” said another. “I never eat bread with gluten.” I noticed, however, that she ate more than a few of my mother’s amazing zippoli (Italian donuts). Ah – so it’s an intolerance that chooses what it can eat. I want that! I want diabetes that reacts by sending my BGL out of range for no apparent reason only when I eat spinach. On a Tuesday. In months ending with an ‘e’. It would be great to pick and choose like that!

Here’s the thing. If people really, legitimately feel that eating something upsets their digestive system, see a doctor and have it tested. Swanning around claiming to be allergic to things or being intolerant of certain food groups minimises the seriousness of those who have life-threatening allergies and those who have conditions where food really is a consideration.

First world, bourgeoisie problems! (Grumpy rant over.)

Information about Coeliac Disease can be found here.

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