My friend Jeremy has a peanut allergy. One time we were in Denny’s and they served him a meal with peanut oil. He started choking and my other friend had to perform the Heimlich maneuver until Jeremy threw up his meal all over the floor. Even at a place filled with poor drunk white trash, this stood out as uncouth. The point is, I realize there are people with legitimate food allergies. Still, science has shown that those people represent a very small percentage of the population. Less than 1% of the population suffers from gluten allergies, for example, yet one-third of consumers are interested in gluten-free foods. Why are food allergies more popular than Taylor Swift when almost no one has them? Slate.com and a new study say it’s all in your head:
An important implication of the study is that two-thirds of people who think they are gluten intolerant really aren’t.
Belief, not physiology, becomes the causal agent, displacing MSG or gluten as the source of blame for someone’s suffering… But things that are in our heads aren’t fake or unimportant (OCD? anorexia?), and susceptibility to a nocebo effect isn’t a sign of weakness.
In college, I went on spring break to Cancun with 10 other guys. Every one of them got sick. I drank water straight from the tap and was fine. Why? Because I had spent the previous four years drinking Poughkeepsie tap water and eating Easy Mac and Chalupas. My body was battle-tested. Now my girlfriend buys all our groceries. I consume nothing but health food and yet I feel sick every time I eat a 3-day old tomato. To use an analogy, I used to train like I was Floyd Mayweather getting ready for a prize fight. Now I’m like Chris Christie trying to get off the couch.