After embracing the gluten free lifestyle for over ten years, I was curious to know how many others were dedicated to the lifestyle like me verses hopping on a trend. Was gluten free here to stay? Is it difficult to cook for or serve food at a restaurant to gluten free family/friends and consumers? Why are people gluten free and what exactly has happened to our food?
This research was done by a random sampling of 100+ people interested in gluten free recipes. To eliminate any bias, only those who gluten free or try to reduce their gluten intake and had not mentioned any other dietary information, were accepted. Learn more about the findings in the questions and answers below.
Here Is a Summary of our Key Findings
(Full List of 2022 Gluten Free Statistics)
How Long Have You Been Gluten Free?
The length of time those embracing the gluten free life varied significantly with not a statistically significantly variance: Under a year 17.2%, 1-2 years 14.6%, 3-5 years 21.7%, 5-10 years 24.2%, and 10+ years 22.3%.
Strictness of Commitment to a Gluten Free Lifestyle
75.8% of those surveyed rated themselves as “extremely strict” with avoiding gluten. While the other numbers trickled down from there – not one single person considered themselves “not strict at all.”
Trends in Why People Are Gluten Free
57% of people who are gluten free were diagnosed Celiacs. 37% considered themselves to have a gluten intolerance. 10% were to manage an autoimmune condition. And 7% were to heal a leaky gut. The small remainder varied: to lose weight, to have more energy, to eat healthier, wheat allergies, and other health conditions. Survey respondents were allowed to select more than one reason.
Health Symptoms That Lead People to Become Gluten Free
The largest, 80%, of those who were gluten free did it to manage stomach discomfort (pain, bloating, gas). 62% for nausea, diarrhea, vomiting. 57% for exhaustion and fatigue. And 40% for joint or muscle pain. Over 10% also had allergy issues, general inflammation, dizziness or neurological issues, skin rashes or hair loss, or mental health concerns. A very minor percent had migraines/headaches, mouth ulcers, and other health reasons. Survey respondents were allowed to select more than one reason.
If You Have Symptoms from Gluten, How Much Better Do You Feel When You Are Not Consuming It?
54% of those who are gluten free to help manage a health condition or symptoms reported that their symptoms are 100% gone when committed to a gluten free lifestyle. 33% feel mostly better. 10% feel somewhat better. 1% feel a little better. And only 3% don’t feel better at all.
How Much More Difficult Do You Find It to Prepare Gluten Free Food Over Regular Food?
Only ¼ of those surveyed found it more difficult to prepare gluten free food over regular food.
Are You Careful about Cross Contamination When Eating Out?
77% of people are concerned/careful to avoid cross contamination when eating out, while 23% are not.
How Difficult Do You Find It to Eat Out or at Someone Else’s Home?
140% of those who are gluten free find it extremely difficult to eat at someone else’s house. 33% find it somewhat difficult. 22.3% find it a bit difficult. The rest do not find it difficult. Find it difficult to entertain with you (or someone else’s) food restrictions in mind? Reference the fun chart on right for easy party ideas for someone with food allergies! Entertaining has never been easier…
Does Gluten Free Lead to Trying Other Diets Such As: Keto, Whole30, or Any Other Limited Diets?
55% of those who consider themselves gluten free have not tried any other limited diets. 13% have tried Weight Watchers, 12% have tried keto or another low carb diet, 12% have tried intermittent fasting, 9% have tried the Mediterranean diet, 8% have tried vegan, vegetarian, or pescatarian, and 6% have tried Slimming World. A small/insignificant percentage have tried various other options such as Paleo, Whole 30, Flexitarian, Paleo AIP, Gaps or SCD, FODMAP, Crohn’s, Slimfast, and more.
Do You Have Any Other Food Allergies, Intolerances, or Restrictions for a Reason Other than Personal Preference?
28.1% of those who consider themselves gluten free also do not/can not consume dairy. 29% do not have any other food allergies/intolerances. The rest is divided, with grains and soy being the next two foods not consumed, followed closely by fish, peanuts, sulfites, and sugar.
Are there any foods (you miss) that you used to eat prior to becoming gluten free, that you have been unable to find prepared in the store or in a restaurant?
80.5% of people who are gluten free still have been unable to find all the food options they like (prepared or bought) and 19.7% of people have found everything they want. Common comments of foods that they have been unable to find/replace are: Chinese food (spring rolls and takeout were the most commonly mentioned), puff pastry, croissants, decent donuts and pizza, freshly baked bread, and pasta (specifically egg noodles).
Please List Anything Else You’d Like to Say about Being Gluten Free.
There were so many comments on this question. Here are some of the responses that were deemed the most impactful:
“It’s ridiculously expensive considering it is a DISEASE and not a life choice which I suspect a lot of people “assume.”
“It’s not a choice it’s for health reasons and I wish the big supermarkets would acknowledge that!”
“It’s so hard but worth it, miss being able to grab a quick snack on the go from filling stations and join in with everyone else in takeaways.”
“The inconsistency restaurants and staff have about the importance of gluten contamination, especially being educated on the gluten content of the foods they serve. I have been glutened in a restaurant both due to not enough information on the product itself, and also by individuals who don’t believe that celiac disease is a serious condition.”
“I am fed up with gf food being replaced by vegan. To be a vegan is choice a celiac it isn’t a choice, it’s to live.” “Supermarkets care too much about plant based food and the selection of gluten free food is becoming more limited.” “It is certainly getting better to eat out but I feel it should be more in the public eye a bit like vegan. Making people more aware it’s necessity rather than choice.” “it is becoming harder and harder to find gluten free items, vegetarian food is taking over” “Large supermarkets had good choice. Now very limited as vegan taken over.” “It’s too expensive. The limited choice is shocking. It’s sickening when restaurants don’t understand the condition at all. Being celiac is not being vegan.” “It’s frustrating when supermarkets cater more for fads than allergies.”
Other Gluten Free Responses
- Trends in Food Cravings After Becoming Gluten Free — Cravings for items such as freshly baked bread, pizza, or other gluten containing desserts still varied significantly in intensity amongst those who are gluten free.
- Friends & Family – 60% of respondents did not have any other family members or close friends who are gluten free. 40% did. Most of those who responded yes only had 1-2 in their social circle who were also gluten free and a little over 25% had 3+.
- Do You Try to Keep Your Kitchen Dedicated Gluten Free? 57% do not.
- Do You Find It More or Less Difficult to Cook for a Crowd/Entertain with Your and Others Dietary Restrictions? – most respondents are neutral on this question.
- How Difficult Do You Find It to Find Foods You Can Eat? – most respondents are neutral on this question. A slightly higher number found it very to extremely difficult and some found it very to extremely easy.
Additional Information on Gluten
What is gluten?
Per the Celiac Disease Foundation®, “Gluten is a general name for the proteins found in wheat (wheatberries, durum, emmer, semolina, spelt, farina, farro, graham, KAMUT® khorasan wheat and einkorn), rye, barley and triticale – a cross between wheat and rye.” In the baking/culinary world, gluten helps foods maintain their shape, holding food together, resembling a “glue-like” function. The 3 most common sources of gluten are wheat, barley, and rye.
What exactly has happened to our food?
There are many theories on why the numbers of those allergic or intolerant to wheat/gluten have continued to be on the rise. Theories/reasons range from: the chemicals and/or environmental conditions used to process wheat, to wheat containing more immunoreactive proteins than in the past, to the lack of bacteria in our bodies, to the fact that wheat is used in mostly processed foods (and reducing gluten would mean cutting those out), and much more.
No matter the reason, those who have a gluten intolerance appear to have an immune/inflammatory response to the consumption of gluten. Similarly, per Celiac.org “when people with celiac disease eat gluten (a protein found in wheat, rye and barley), their body mounts an immune response that attacks the small intestine.”
Why are people gluten free / why go gluten free?
As seen in the survey responses above, the reasons people reduce/remove gluten from their diet varies greatly. However, the vast majority were due to Celiac disease, closely followed by a gluten intolerance. Other common reasons were to manage an autoimmune condition or to heal a leaky gut. There was a small variance of other reasons.
Summaries of Findings/Want to Market to Gluten Free Consumers or Start a Gluten Free Business?
The most common frustration/comment expressed by those who were gluten-free was a lack of understanding that they are gluten free for health reasons. Most want to feel accommodated to and have as many options as vegan/vegetarian which they stated tends to be more of a lifestyle choice. In fact, not ONE single person who was gluten free reported that “Symptoms/heath issues are not the reason I am gluten free;” making evident that the gluten free lifestyle was due to some sort of health concern in 100% of people.
There are still many gray areas regarding the gluten free lifestyle, how it works, and why it works. However, one thing’s for certain; due to its ability to help relieve negative healthy issues in many, it’s not going anywhere anytime soon.
Many large restaurants, grocers, and manufacturers should really consider taking the time to better accommodate the needs of their gluten free customers. For those looking into developing a gluten free food product or restaurant options here are some items for consideration that are missing from the market:
- Restaurants/bakeries – Chinese food & Chinese takeout, Italian food – decent pizza & pasta, bakery with good donuts/croissants/fresh bread.
- Gas station, grocery store, products – convenient and/or healthy grab n go foods, puff pastry, donut mix, spring roll wrappers, croissants, egg noodles.
For those who are 100% gluten free just as me, I’m so glad to hear in spite of the difficulties, how much being gluten free has helped your health. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that in the future people will become more understanding and considerate of the circumstances we’ve been presented with 😊. Thank you to everyone who participated in this research!