There are physical, emotional, and financial implications to going gluten-free.
While a diagnosis of Celiac disease, followed by strict adherence to the gluten-free diet, aims to improve physical health, gluten-free living comes with some hidden (and some not-so-hidden) costs.
There is a significant financial cost to managing and maintaining a strict gluten-free diet; the gluten-free diet is expensive. In the context of Canada, as example, research has shown that the diet costs Canadians more on average in grocery bills per month.
When it comes to accessing gluten-free food and/or resources, an individual’s social status based on social class (personal wealth, for example) will impact their capacity to access certain gluten-free foods and resources.
While navigating life on a gluten-free diet comes with increased financial burden, it is not the only cost impacting quality of life.
Social implications related to the gluten-free diet
Research from Sverker et al. (2005), for example, has shown how Celiacs navigate various “dilemmas” related to navigating the gluten-free diet in the everyday life. Despite being published in 2005, the tensions flagged by the research participants remain relevant. The researchers break these dilemmas down into 5 key areas: (1) encountering food in the workplace, (2) when purchasing food, (3) while traveling, and with respect to managing meals both (4) inside and (5) outside of the home.
These areas were then grouped into three main categories: emotions (such as shame), relationships (impacting capacity to take risks, for example), and managing everyday life (like capacity for travel, or the extra daily work of thinking through food choices) (Sverker et al., 2005).
This research focused specifically on the experiences navigating Celiac disease. Whether Celiac or not, however, it’s important for all individuals adhering to a gluten-free diet to identify and understand that in addition to the financial costs, there are various social tensions that might come along for the ride.
These dilemmas impact quality of life, as they relate to physical, emotional, and financial implications to going gluten-free, managing everyday life, and even relationships, and unpacking these can be helpful in developing coping strategies.
If you identify with any of these dilemmas, you are not alone.
Sverker A, Hensing G, Hallert C. (2005). ‘Controlled by food’- lived experiences of coeliac disease. J Hum Nutr Diet. 18(3):171-80.