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Is the Gluten-Free Craze a Blessing or a Curse?

I remember just a few short years ago how difficult it was to find gluten-free food in the grocery store. I have vivid memories of my mother buying various kinds of flour in order to create her own gluten-free baking mix, because there weren’t any on the market.

Fast forward to 2016 when I’ve written entire blogs reviewing the various brands offering gluten-free flour mixes!

But are there negative aspects of the booming gluten-free industry? For those of us with celiac and gluten sensitivity, is it helping us or hurting us?

Walk into any grocery store today and you will undoubtedly find a gluten-free section containing pastas, cookies, crackers, cake mixes, granola bars, flour blends… the list goes on and on. Is this massive boom in product availability, options, and awareness helping or hurting the celiac community?


Why It’s a Blessing

1. The Glorious Options!

I remember when first diagnosed with celiac how few options there were at the grocery store. And of the options available, there was a 50/50 chance it would taste something like gritty cardboard. My how the tides have changed! While I do try to keep the processed food to a minimum, it’s so nice to be able to easily find things like pie crusts, lasagna noodles, instant waffles, panko breadcrumbs; the list goes on and on! It really is a gluten-free smorgasboard out there. 

2. Not only are the options greater – the food is BETTER.

With Americans spending over $4 billion a year on gluten-free products, there is now serious competition among companies vying for the attention of gluten-free shoppers. Not only do we expect more options, but we expect them to taste just as good as the gluten-containing version. Long gone are the days of one lonely brand of styrofoam textured bread at the grocery store. Now we have exclusively gluten-free bakeries, gluten-free pizza that is actually delicious, and lots of great restaurants catering to our needs. 

3. Less Social Isolation

Being restricted to a gluten-free diet can sometimes be isolating, especially at social events like office parties and weddings. The gluten-free boom and the consequent awareness has really helped out with this issue. It’s now easier for hosts to change recipes to be gluten-free, it’s less complicated to explain a gluten-free diet to others, and kitchen and wait staff at places like hotels and banquet halls are well equipped to handle a gluten-free meal.


Why It’s a Curse

1. Lax Restaurant and Wait Staff

One of the biggest problems I face is waiters not knowing if my questions and requests are due to celiac disease or to a lifestyle choice. I often feel like the more prevalent the gluten-free diet becomes the less seriously my requests are taken at restaurants. The dramatic increase of the gluten-free movement has also led many critics to call it the “latest diet fad,” meaning that we have to fight even harder to make sure that people know that for those of us with celiac and gluten-intolerance it is a serious health issue. 

2. Growing Cross-Contamination Issues

As more restaurants begin to cater to the growing number of gluten-free dieters, the risk for cross-contamination grows along with it. While some restaurants are careful to take extra measures like changing out gloves and preparing food in separate areas, many more restaurants don’t take the necessary precautions to avoid cross-contamination while still labeling their dishes as gluten-free.

3. People Not Taking Us Seriously

While an estimated 1% of the population has celiac disease, a whopping 29% of Americans are attempting a gluten-free diet. Unfortunately, this segment of the population who simply view gluten-free dieting as an easy health fix may be making life challenging for those of us who need to avoid gluten. Phrases like “cheat day” or “just a bite” when referring to a gluten-free diet diminish the seriousness and damage that gluten can pose to those with celiac and gluten-intolerance.


So what do you think? Do the benefits outweigh the risks? Do you think the gluten-free boom is a blessing or a curse? I guess we’ll all have to wait and see.


Learn more about supplements for people with Celiac and gluten-sensitivity.


Marie George:

There is still a lot of misinformation floating around about being gluten-free. People constantly ask how long I will be on this “diet!” When I answer the rest of my life, they act surprised. It is not something we can change out of at will. Our support group is fortunate to have several doctors who come from time to time to speak to us, especially when we have newly diagnosed people asking questions. Keep up your good work. Not all products stating gluten free are really gluten free.

Apr 14, 2016


I always inform the server that my ‘diet’ is a requirement for me – NOT a choice. I find that if I ask what they do about cross contamination and they have an appropriate response, it’s probably safe. If they have no idea of what I’m talking about – I don’t eat there.

Apr 13, 2016

Jan Lovern:

Eating out is always going to be a risk and I guess I’m willing to do that. Spain is a good place to go and I did and it was great…………….the USA just doesn’t get it !!!!!and that says alot about our food people…sad !!!! they probably will never get it….it seems people have to have a relative to make them pay attension!
skinny Jan

Apr 12, 2016

Jenni :

In order to get restaurants to take me seriously. I say I’m allergic to gluten and will become very Ill if they do not put on clean gloves and avoid using same pans, forks or spoons to serve food on my plate. I do become very I’ll as I have had celiac disease for over 40 years.
Otherwise they do not take you seriously.
Also I tell restaurants i will be back if they do not get me sick. So I have 3 local restaurants
That I use because they are super careful
and know me as a regular.
Jenni in Southern Az.

Apr 12, 2016


I appreciate the additional exposure to the masses. So far I haven’t had problems in restaurants.

As far as specialty GF foods, I don’t buy very much. Stuff in the gluten free isles tend to be expensive. What I really appreciate is major food companies changing their mainstream products to gluten-free. Hormel & Frito-Lay are cases in point. Hormel’s lunch meats and most styles of chili are GF and labeled as such, without the extreme boost in price. The same for Fritos, my favorite snack since I was a kid.

Once in a while we may buy a GF cornbread or pancake mix, but we don’t go in big for carbs anyway. One staple for us is Bob’s Red Mill GF Steel Cut Oats. We buy in bulk from Amazon.

I haven’t tried the new GF Cheerios yet.

Apr 12, 2016


I am not celiac but I am wheat and gluten intolerant. Therefore, I require gluten ‘friendly’ food. meaning that occasional cross contamination is not dangerous for me. Explaining this to wait staff and having them understand it without judgment is almost not worth eating out. then there is the server that goes overboard pointing things out on the menu that can be altered, rather than quietly handing me a GF menu or Gluten friendly options. This puts so much attention on me that it makes me feel uncomfortable holding up everyone else’s order. Factor in the chef coming out to speak with me and I’m ready to crawl under the table. Serving staff should be educated on the difference of allergy vs. intolerance. Owners of restaurants can accommodate all their patrons by having a separate GF menu or having items that are GF or can be prepared GF marked clearly beside all menu items. There are only a few things we really have to stay clear of and that’s bread/breading and pasta but more restaurants have GF options for both now. However, anything can be off limits if a chef decides to put flour in the sauces. Use corn starch as a thickener for Pete’s sakes! Please remember that eating GF is not about special food with special additions. It’s about eating real food with less additives. We are not asking to be treated special. WE just want to enjoy a meal out without painful consequences.

Apr 12, 2016


Great article! It’s tough going out to eat. I never know when I’ll get sick. I have a few restaurants I trust, but it just takes a little mistake to make me sick.
Also, I find that I trust the food I buy in the grocery store less. A lot of companies are claiming products are gluten free that aren’t safe for those of use with Celiac (like Cheerios). Companies are now ok with their product testing to the FDA level which I wouldn’t consider safe for those with Celiac… and even their “tests” don’t happen regularly. That FDA ruling really hurt those of us who are sensitive! Even gluten free brands that I used to trust I seem to have issues with now.
I stick with companies that have seperate gluten free facilities, but I find myself eating more fruits, vegetables and meat (less processed)…. it’s just safer!

Apr 12, 2016

Louise silverman:

I have celiac n I find when I go into restaurants n ask for a salad with no crotons n then it comes with croton n asked them for a new salad, they get mad. Like,take them off. People I. General do not understand the disease n when I ask questions, it’ for me to have an enjoyable dinner, not,get sick

Apr 12, 2016

Janice Beck:

Here in East Texas we are blessed with a wonderful gluten-free section at Kroger, but alas, our restaurants are still very backward in offering much besides a salad sans croutons, or a bland tasting grilled chicken filet.
When I finally figured out (with no help from my doctors) that I had a gluten problem in 2009, there was only onine options, so we have progressed, but not nearly as much as we need. In larger cities the restaurants are more informed and offer some wonderful entrees as well as desserts. My personal favorite is Saltgrass.

Apr 12, 2016


It’s BOTH, and probably always will be. I have gotten into the habit of saying to waiters “I am allergic to gluten, and I’ll get very sick if I eat even a tiny amount. I’ve had this since way before it was the fashionable thing to do, so I would really appreciate if you could make sure that the kitchen takes the proper precautions” or something along those lines.
Also, we own a banquet facility, and over the last few years we have seen a huge increase in the number of guests with allergies and sensitivities of all types, not just gluten. We prepare food specifically for the events we do, we don’t have a restaurant, so if someone sits down at the table and says “oh by the way, I’m allergic to *” it’s very difficult for us to accommodate.

Apr 12, 2016

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