On the Today show a little while ago — for anyone who doesn’t know, the Today show is a popular morning news show in the United States — they covered a number of health fads and health myths. You can view the segment online and read a summary of it here: Allergy Myths Busted
In particular, they dispelled the “myth” of the gluten allergy. This seems to have alarmed and frustrated a huge number of people, including a few subscribers to my newsletter, who contacted me about this “news” segment. From the comments on the story, which I recommend you avoid entirely, it appeared the segment elicited a fair bit of rage.
I see two problems here. First, as regular Gluten Intolerance School readers and long-time newsletter subscribers should know by now (hopefully), the doctors speaking for the Today show in this case are technically correct. There is no such thing as a gluten “allergy.” Neither celiac disease nor non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) are defined as allergies. They do not trigger an immediate histamine response, and they often don’t trigger an immediate, perceptible reaction at all.
However, this does not mean they aren’t serious conditions with serious consequences if left untreated, and it doesn’t mean the damage isn’t being done quietly, somewhere within the patient’s body.
And this leads to my second problem: the way the Today show covered this topic, both on TV and in their published article online, was far too vague and flippant. They should have made it clear that multiple forms of gluten intolerance are very real and very serious. They should have made it clear that the terminology was the problem, not the legitimacy of the condition that many people (perhaps even most laymen) associate with the term gluten allergy.
Without a better explanation, they just came off as pedantic. For example, they could have explained how using the term “allergy” can be misleading and even harmful for people with celiac disease.
This is because when people think of an allergic reaction, they think of an almost instant and severe response to exposure to a specific food. But celiac disease often doesn’t trigger an obvious and immediate reaction. It’s still doing severe damage, but it isn’t always immediately perceived by the patient. This is a legitimate reason why someone might have a problem with the term “gluten allergy.”
To develop a complete understanding of the confusing terminology surrounding the gluten intolerance phenomenon, I encourage you to review the two following lessons on the Gluten Intolerance School:
To view my own attempt to “own” the often misused term, try these two lessons:
I hope this helps. Oh, and please, don’t read the comments under major stories on major news sites. They’re crammed with people who promote and perpetuate ignorance, often without realizing it.