Gluten: famous for all the wrong reasons

The New Zealand Facebook-dwelling coeliac and gluten-free community is pretty peeved today at the words of Polly Gillespie, DJ for radio station The Hits.

In a segment called ‘The worst things of the twenty-first century’ Polly states: 

“Gluten free diets. I think there’s only like four people who are allergic to wheat and the rest of us are just being stupid.”

Thank goodness Doctor Polly has cleared that up for us all. Gluten intolerance is obviously an illness of the clinically ridiculous and only people who are “allergic to wheat” need to be on a gluten-free diet.

<this paragraph is written in italics to highlight the sarcasm>

Polly’s actually a really awesome lady. She has a lot to say, and most of what she says is empowering, engaging and informative. But today she got it wrong.

Here is the truth of the matter:

  • Gluten intolerance is a real medical condition, as is Coeliac Disease
  • Coeliac disease is an auto-immune disease, not an allergy, and can only be managed by effectively excluding all gluten: which includes products containing barley, rye, wheat and often oats too (because of the protein avenin and it’s cross-reactive powers)
  • There are thousands of New Zealanders who have Coeliac Disease, and thousands more who are gluten intolerant. 
  • The impact of gluten on health is not a new thing. The first reports of Coeliac Disease go back as far as the second century AD. 
  • Increased awareness of a medical condition does not make the treatment a ‘fad’

Moving to a gluten-free diet to improve your health (whether you are gluten intolerant or a Coeliac) is hard. I personally don’t know anybody who has done it without good reason.

It’s not always easy to be gluten-free, and the support of people who can eat normally is really important. Polly, please don’t make us gluteys feel like we’re stupid for looking after our health.

Enjoy your gluten (we wish we could eat it too without getting sick) – mmm hamburgers.

You can listen to the full segment from The Hits here (at 30:30).

6 thoughts on “Gluten: famous for all the wrong reasons

  1. I have been a diagnosed Coeliac for around 27 years, most people are aware of this fact but still don't understand it. But the last few years I have actively avoided saying 'Gluten Free Diet' in certain groups because of just this reaction.


  2. It's a real shame eh. I have NEVER met anyone who is on a gluten-free diet for flaky 'fad' reasons. We need more recognition out there, especially by people of influence that coeliac disease and gluten intolerance are real and serious illnesses. p.s. gosh 27 years, must have been hard in the early days for you – i found it hard enough 13 years ago to find products!


  3. So disappointed that someone speaking to the masses would feel the need to say such things. Especially considering she obviously don't know anything about it. I'd love to see what Polly would say after spending a week in my (or anyone else with gluten issues) shoes. Its people like Polly who make our struggles all that much worse. Im sure The Hits will be losing some listeners for a while, they'll definitely be losing me! Good work on your post! I thought it was great! 🙂


  4. Its comments like this that make it embarrassing in certain company to admit you have coeliac disease. I often end up justifying my reasons for asking if something is GF because I hate being looked at like Im a halfwit jumping in on a gimmicky fad. And then people with an audience say stuff like this…. 😦


  5. I become really irritated at people who have never been diagnosed with Gluten intolerance but 'say' they are because it is a trendy thing to do. I HAVE met young 30 something people who say they are on a gluten-free diet just because it sounds trendy. We must move in different circles Gluteygirlinthetron!! My youngest son was born (40 years ago) premature and had a 'form' of ceoliac disease. Then it was in fact much easier to find gluten-free and other dietary requirements. I am 70 and if my memories serves me right then the University of Waikato still had a Domestic Science & Food Sciences Division which provided Mothers like myself with recipes and information. They supplied us with a shopping list naming the brands that my son could eat and those that he couldn't and, as I ate what he ate, I have a strong aversion to Griffin Wine Biscuits.


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