Food That Makes You Different: The Stigma Experienced by Adolescents With Celiac Disease

Department of food and Nutrition, University of Umeå, Umeå, Sweden.
Qualitative Health Research (Impact Factor: 2.19). 08/2009; 19(7):976-84. DOI: 10.1177/1049732309338722
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT For adolescents with celiac disease (CD), a gluten-free diet (GFD) is crucial for health, but compliance is problematic and noncompliance is common even among those aware of the risks. To better understand their lives with the disease, Swedish CD adolescents were invited to take part in focus group discussions. Data were analyzed for recurrent stigma-related themes across the groups. Adolescents described an awareness of being different from others that was produced by meal appearance and the poor availability of gluten-free food. The GFD often required discussions and special requests, so eating in public had the effect of making an invisible condition visible, and thereby creating a context for felt or enacted stigma. Maintaining invisibility avoided negative consequences of stigma, and other strategies were used to reduce the costs of visibility. The results of the study show that the GFD can produce stigma experiences in adolescence, and that dietary compliance (or lack thereof) can be understood in terms of dealing with GFD concealment and disclosure.