Eliminating gluten isn't the challenge, ditch the convenience foods

Letters from Maclean's readers

Liam Mogan

Going gluten-free

The underlying dietary issue that is obscured by the gluten-free “craze” (“Gone gluten-free,” Society, Sept. 16) is the unhealthy processed and packaged food, most of it grain-based and thus gluten-based, that we eat in North America. Although doctors and medical experts are now “sounding the alarm” about eliminating gluten, they have failed to state any verifiable benefit of consuming it, only that it’s in “almost everything” that we eat. Thus, attempting to reduce or eliminate it now constitutes a “radical” dietary change, we’re told, when in fact our previous transition—to a diet of highly processed, grain-based foods full of refined sugars and fats—was the greatest dietary experiment ever undertaken by human beings. The real challenge isn’t so much eliminating gluten per se as it is ditching the convenience foods and eating more fresh food—as our much healthier ancestors did.

Michael Dennis, Greenburgh, N.Y.

I was inspired to try a gluten-free diet after reading William Davis’s bestseller Wheat Belly. I have no digestive problems; however, I had two health issues that the book stated could be improved. After being gluten-free now for six weeks, I have experienced the very favourable changes that I was hoping for. The joints in my hands feel wonderful: very flexible with no pain or inflammation. The three patches of psoriasis, including one on my scalp, have all disappeared. I embrace this new regime that I have adapted to with ease. I do not see any dangers ahead.

Lesley Alboini, Toronto

Your article may prevent those who are truly in need of a gluten-free diet from taking action to help themselves. I found out about four years ago that I was celiac. It takes until the eighth paragraph of the story before the reader discovers celiacs exist. Being on a gluten-free diet has helped me in my daily life. There is really nothing wrong with it if you take out the processed foods. Further, pricing of products has decreased because of the nature of the diet’s popularity.

Bill Tymchyshyn, St. Thomas, Ont.

The Duffy effect

If, because of the events swirling around Mike Duffy (“King of the hill,” National, Sept. 16), we get rid of the scourge occupying the government seats in Ottawa, all Canadians should take up a collection and give Duffy another $90,000 in gratitude. It would be well worth it.

Doug Wellard, Stratford, Ont.

Enough already. The story of senators’ misuse of privileges and expenses has been worked to death, and now eight pages on Mike Duffy? Your readers must have had enough of this exposé by now. You must agree he has been fully chastised and ruined for any further employment in the media. If he resigns his Senate seat, will you guys let up and stop trying to pull the whole institution and the elected government down with him?

Daniel Q. Smith, McNab/Braeside, Ont.

In praise of muchness

Being a parent fully in support of the Montessori methodology, I am glad to see it fortuitously being applied by Kristine Barnett, mother of a 15-year-old master physicist, in her philosophy of “muchness” (“Boy genius,” National, Sept. 9), in which every child gets the opportunity to focus on whatever they are interested in without time limits, respecting the depth of concentration the child attains during a particular activity. As Kristine had the courage to do, I would encourage all parents to consider the benefits of unstructured, non-traditional ways of education that could bring out their children’s passions in ways they would never have imagined.

Miguel Flores, Mississauga, Ont.

Work, work, work

Good for you stepping up with your Future of Jobs package (Sept. 16)! When I entered university in 1991, media and the universities led us to believe that our timing was perfect to take advantage of a looming teacher shortage, that we would literally be able to pick which schools we’d want to teach at. Imagine the surprise when only about seven per cent of my graduating class found full-time teaching work after graduation. (I was not one of the lucky few.) I would have loved to have had some guidance back then as to where the jobs were. Excellent idea!

Tony Ollenberger, Saskatoon

Chris Sorensen mentions truck driving as a low-skilled job and puts it in the same category as a sales clerk (“Filling the gaps,” Future of Jobs, Sept. 16). A person can become a sales clerk after just a few days of training, but a special truck licence is required for a truck-driving career, and almost all trucking companies need a minimum of one-year of experience before they even consider hiring a person for long hauls. A sales clerk works for minimum wages; I have been making almost $90,000 yearly driving a tractor-trailer, working an average of 50 hours per week. It’s a big responsibility, hauling a fully loaded tractor-trailer that can weigh up to 80,000 lb. down a highway and through congested city streets. I feel pride in transporting goods safely to help keep the economy going. I love my job and I will not trade it for any other.

Salman Zafar, Kitchener, Ont.

I left Taiwan with my Ph.D. and brought many years of work experience in communications and media to Canada. However, five years later, I am just a retail sales clerk receiving minimum wage. Canada sets a very low language bar for immigrants, many of whom thought they spoke English well in their home countries but can only handle grocery-shopping conversations when they arrive here. Professional jobs require an advanced level, and they realize the truth far too late. Thanks to my Canadian-born husband, I have improved my English a lot in a short time. I am also using my married name to do business nowadays, and don’t look like a Chinese immigrant on my resumé—I admit that I get more opportunities. With that in mind, I have yet to find a career that can make me proud.

Peggy Goddard, Toronto

The so-called labour shortage is mainly our failure to properly use all the idle people we already have in Canada. Back when the Trans-Canada Microwave System was built in the 1950s, connecting TV and telephone lines across the country, there weren’t enough technicians available to operate it. So the Canadian telephone companies set up training centres and taught their own employees. Not long afterwards, the high schools established courses to train students in electronics and, later, computer technology and programming. Thousands of students graduated from high school with marketable skills. Sadly, the secondary schools then turned their backs on technical training and students were allowed to pick and choose almost any subjects they wanted. There was no planning, no direction and consequently thousands of kids left high school with no training for any job. What an enormous waste. In many, if not most, cases we have plenty of young people in Canada to do the work. We just need to train them.

O. Robert Lawrence, North Bay, Ont.

I’ve worked in the construction industry for over 25 years, and here is the reality: A higher divorce rate among workers who have to travel long distances, sometimes for months at a time, to find work; very few workers making it to retirement age without lifelong debilitating injuries to the back, knees, or hands; an unnecessarily high death rate on the job; a constant push to meet unattainable deadlines, resulting in a high degree of mental stress. The truth is that the construction industry desires many more workers in order to put downward pressure on the prevailing wage rates. Very few workers are able to obtain steady work for an entire year, resulting in repeated periods of collecting Employment Insurance benefits to tide them over. Needless to say, I will not be recommending a career in the construction trades for my own son.

Terry Clarke, Hamilton

Everybody’s doing it

If Justin Trudeau plans to introduce the legalization of marijuana, with proper regulations, I will vote Liberal (“Why Harper’s foes need to get off the pot,” Opinion, Sept. 16). It is just that simple. Most of the pot smokers I know are anywhere from in their 30s to their 70s and they are tired of the stigma of being viewed as criminals. I have been at many social functions over the years where there were just as many RCMP members indulging in marijuana as the “common” folk. Trudeau would not just get the youth vote. Kudos to him for recognizing this is an issue Canadians want resolved and staking his reputation on what the majority of Canadians want.

Cheryl Burchell, Yarmouth, N.S.

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