As adults I believe we would all like to think that peer pressure went the way of high school. While for many that may be true, unfortunately peer pressure seems to be alive and well in many of my patients who are gluten intolerant and their health is suffering as a result.
Here Are Some Real Life Examples
Just this week I’ve run into the following patients:
- A gentleman who had been suffering for years with severe IBS (Irritable bowel syndrome with diarrhea and discomfort multiple times per day) whom, after learning he was gluten intolerant and making the necessary dietary and nutritional changes, had been feeling great. His bowels had normalized and his pain had resolved entirely. I hadn’t seen him for several months but he contacted me and confessed that he had been eating some gluten and wasn’t feeling well again. Someone had offered him some a few months prior and, in a moment of weakness, he had given in. When he didn’t 'seem' to suffer terribly as a result, he started cheating more. Time passed and now he’s ill again.
- The second example is a young woman who had been off gluten for several months and doing well, who accepted a protein bar that her brother handed her before they went out to exercise – she was hungry and didn’t bother to read the gluten-containing ingredients. The result? She went into anaphylactic shock and had to be rushed to the emergency room.
- Lastly, a middle aged gentleman who had noticed great improvement in his health since removing gluten from his diet, called in to say he needed help. After initiating a gluten-free diet several months ago he’d lost weight from his prior bulging abdomen, his joint pain disappeared and his energy rose significantly. When he came into the clinic this week he was complaining of fatigue and insomnia. It turns out that he started sneaking in some gluten at a memorial dinner after a family member passed away and he was feeling ‘blue’ – someone offered him some and he said it was easier to eat it than explain why he couldn’t.The result? He felt terrible and it wasn't resolving.
What do all these patients have in common?
- They are all gluten intolerant and have experienced great health improvement as a result of a gluten-free diet, while also receiving treatment for the secondary effects of gluten as individualized for each patient.
- They have ‘cheated’ on their diet and experienced a variety of symptoms. In the case of the young lady, her anaphylactic shock could have killed her if she hadn’t gotten to the ER fast enough.
- Statistically they have increased their risk of developing autoimmune disease because they are again exposing their immune system to a known toxin – gluten.
- If they continue cheating they increase their risk of dying from all causes to 4 times over their non-gluten intolerant counterparts.
As I mentioned above, these were just stories from this week. I wish I could say this was an unusual week, but it wasn’t.
Is it human nature to ‘cheat’?
I like to have treats once in a while, but I’d NEVER cheat with gluten. Why? I know better. I might have a couple of extra pieces of dark chocolate, but gluten doesn’t even tempt me. And the reason I'm not tempted is because I know the serious ramifications. I’d no sooner make that mistake than I would sign up for a game of Russian roulette – both can kill you.
If you’re gluten intolerant, please get educated. You’ll know when your education is adequately thorough when you wouldn’t ever consider cheating. Do you need help? That’s what I’m here for.