Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



First Advisor

Michelle Osborn




gluten free, celiac, food industry


The prevalence of gluten free diets has skyrocketed in recent years. The food industry has taken notice with a market projected to grow to $7.59 billion by the year 2020. Adhering to a gluten free diet has become easier to follow than ever before. There are a variety of reasons for going gluten free. The majority of individuals choosing a gluten free diet are those trying to lose weight or more broadly attempting a healthier lifestyle. Yet others have no choice in the matter and must exclude gluten due to medical diagnoses such as those suffering from celiac disease and wheat allergies. In addition a growing number of patients claim to suffer from 'Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity' (NCGS). Despite the significant increase in those claiming gluten sensitivities there is minimal discussion regarding this phenomenon in the social science literature. In general little is known about NCGS yet patients have persuasive claims of severe discomfort that is relieved following the elimination of gluten from their diet. Scientists acknowledge a biological component to NCGS but currently lack the ability to identify a conclusive etiology. Therefore NCGS remains an illness without a disease. Those who suffer from illnesses without a known cause find it to be more socially problematic than individuals whose conditions have a clear pathology. People with NCGS frequently must seek diagnosis and treatment beyond the physician's office and feel the need to define themselves as 'real gluten free'. My participants are not only quick to separate themselves from the gluten free diet fad but rather actively critique it claiming it delegitimizes those who have genuine gluten related disorders. Thus this paper examines the experiences of individuals suffering from NCGS and their desire to medicalize their condition.