Food for ThoughtAug/Sep 2014 Issue

Revolution Afoot: The Drive to Avoid Gluten, Dairy, Casein and Other Allergens

We’re getting fed up with chemicals, preservatives, processed foods and more!

Now we enter August with its dog days and gently ruffled seas, last gasp of vacation before school and farmers’ markets bursting with the ripeness of summer produce. As I load up on these local organic and unpreserved pleasures, dew still glistening on the greens, I sense a groundswell rising around me.

More and more of us are reaching a dietary tipping point about the quality of our food. It isn’t just those of us who must avoid gluten, dairy, casein and other allergens. But many more, some for the first time in their lives, are passing up processed, excessive sugar, sodium, bad fat, chemicals, preservatives and genetically modified products. Every day, I meet someone who is newly gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian, even vegan or paleo, who is consciously choosing not to eat out of a box, bag, pouch, clamshell and microwave tray.

A recent documentary narrated by Katie Couric pointed out that America is getting mightily “fed up” with factory food, recalls, diabetes, obesity and other food-related illnesses. These are not food snobs or politically correct eaters. These are regular burger-eating carnivores, devoted consumers of big supermarket brands and so-called convenience foods.

Photo by Avatar_023/shutterstock

This is the Italian great-grandmother down the block who asks me where she can find good whole-grain gluten-free pasta. It’s the young mother taking her child off high-fructose corn syrup, gluten and casein and discovering his tantrums have eased. It’s the dairy-and-gluten-free cable guy telling me he’s never felt better and is considering going all the way to paleo. It’s people buying in small batches in order to be free of preservatives.

And so, too, I decided to take the sugar coating off my tongue and was shocked that it took a full week before the cravings ceased. I am amazed at my newfound energy and ability to sleep.

For the first time in history, millions of us are rejecting what we have been fed. We have questions. Why do so many of us feel better without wheat and gluten? Is the human immune system under assault? Is the epidemic of childhood ADHD and other behavioral problems dietary? Is our food supply being compromised? Are we the canaries in the coal mine?

Suddenly those of us with allergies, food intolerances and chemical sensitivities are seeing that what we are eating is the problem, not our reaction to it. We are avoiding, as we always have, what makes us sick but now we are saying “no” to foods that may not allow us to get well.

With the taste of summer still in my mouth, crisp hint of apples in the air, local cauliflower and Brussels sprouts not far behind, I am hopeful for a future of conscious and sustainable eating. I am optimistic that we will all be healthier, wiser and far more assertive than ever before about what we put on our plates.

And that, my friends, is truly revolutionary.

Jax Peters Lowell is author of Against The Grain and The Gluten-Free Bible. Her latest book, The Gluten-Free Revolution (Henry Holt) will be released in January 2015.

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