Understanding gluten-free food choices in non-coeliacs

Up to 20 percent of the Australian adult population is estimated to avoid gluten, far exceeding the estimated prevalence of gluten-related disorders, such as coeliac disease. This suggests many people may be choosing to go gluten-free for non-medical reasons, and PhD candidate Kyah Hester at Charles Sturt University has explored why this may be.

An online survey was followed up with an in-depth study of non-coeliac gluten avoiders to measure the frequency of avoidance behaviours, participants’ perceptions, determinants of food choice, interpersonal experiences relating to their diets and a wide range of psychological variables, including personality traits. The results suggest that non-coeliac gluten avoiders don’t just steer away from gluten but also avoid other food types, such as dairy or eggs. They were also significantly more likely to experience frequent adverse physiological symptoms, both after the consumption of foods and on a general daily basis.

The researcher suggests many non-coeliac people are not satisfied by the treatment response from doctors to their gastrointestinal symptoms, leading them to experiment with alternative diets. She hopes that giving doctors an insight into these behaviours may reduce the risk of people adopting a self-managed diet without proper investigation of their symptoms.

Earlier exploration of this issue can be read on the Grains Research and Development Corporation website.