Objective: Strict adherence to a gluten-free diet is the only treatment for coeliac disease. The gluten-free diet is complex, costly and impacts on all activities involving food, making it difficult to maintain for a lifetime. The purpose of this cross-sectional study was to evaluate the difficulties experienced, the strategies used and the emotional impact of following a gluten-free diet among Canadians with coeliac disease.
Methods: A questionnaire was mailed to all members (n = 10 693) of both the Canadian Celiac Association and the Fondation québécoise de la maladie cœliaque in 2008.
Results: The overall response rate was 72%. Results are presented for the 5912 respondents (≥18 years) reporting biopsy-confirmed coeliac disease and/or dermatitis herpetiformis. Two-thirds never intentionally consumed gluten. Women reported significantly greater emotional responses to a gluten-free diet but, with time, were more accepting of it than men. Difficulties and negative emotions were experienced less frequently by those on the diet for >5 years, although food labelling and eating away from home remained very problematic. Frustration and isolation because of the diet were the most common negative emotions experienced.
Conclusions: The present study quantifies the difficulties experienced, the strategies used and the emotional impact of following a gluten-free diet. It highlights the need to improve the training and education of dietitians, other health providers and the food service industry workers about coeliac disease and a gluten-free diet, with the aim of better helping individuals improve their adherence to a gluten-free diet and their quality of life.
© 2012 Canadian Celiac Association and Food Directorate Health Canada Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics © 2012 The British Dietetic Association Ltd.