The question of gluten insensitivity versus celiac disease has caused a lot of controversy over the last few years, with the mainstream view being that you either have celiac disease or you don’t – and any sensitivity you think you may have is in your head. I might add that I do not subscribe to the mainstream view and the pains, bloating and headaches I get when eating gluten are most certainly not in my imagination!
The inability to consume gluten can cause a whole host of health issues. Most people are aware that gluten is found in items like certain flours. such as wheat, rye and barley. We all know to avoid these.
However, food is not the only thing you have to pay attention to if you are on a gluten free diet. You may find that even though going gluten-free, you still often suffer many of the same symptoms as when you include gluten in your diet. This can often lead people to think it is something else causing the issues and so start including it back into the diet
You might be surprised at just where else in your daily life you are exposing yourself to gluten!
Things to watch out for:
One of the key issues, when being gluten free, is being able to detect products that may contain gluten. Reading labels on every item you consume is important. In many cases, the gluten is identified in the inactive ingredient (binders and fillers) list, but it’s not always easy understanding what those ingredients are, particularly in non-food items.
4 non-food groups of items, that may include gluten.
- Medication (prescription and over-the-counter)
- Vitamin and mineral supplements
- Cosmetics and toiletries
- Pet Food
Medication often contains gluten. It is used to keep the tablets together and is also as a filler in capsules. In most cases, it is not listed in the ingredients as “gluten” because it is part of another product like “maltodextrin.” “Pregelantized starch,” “dextrin,” or “dextrate” are other compunds to watch out for. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not require drug companies to list gluten as an ingredient. A good rule of thumb is to speak to your doctor or pharmacist to make sure that your medication does not contain gluten. If it is in a medication that you have been taking, your doctor may need to prescribe a substitute medication.
Vitamin and mineral supplements often contain gluten for the same reasons they are used in medication. Once again, it is used as a binder or a filler, and is usually a part of another ingredient that may be listed under inactive ingredients. Supplements have to label their ingredients too, but laws proving their safety or efficacy are much more lax than drugs. It is therefore suggested that you look into supplements produced by a company that follows the Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) established by the FDA, as this is meant to guarantee that you are getting what the label claims.
Cosmetics and toiletries can be a danger to people that have celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Therefore, if you are completely cutting gluten out of your life, you should also consider checking your cosmetics to make sure they are free from gluten binders. Some research indicates that simply coming in contact with gluten is enough to cause a reaction. But again, just checking the ingredients may not be enough. For example, Vitamin E in lotions could actually be derived from wheat. However it would only be listed as Vitamin E. The surest way to make certain you are avoiding gluten in your cosmetics is to use a known or certified gluten free brand such as AfterGlow – who use Vitamin E from Cotton seed and process in gluten-free facilities. A comprehensive listing can be found here.
Pet food can also contain traces of gluten. Okay I assume you aren’t chowing down on the doggy treats, but if you are handling them you may still have some issues. There are plenty of grain and gluten-free pet foods available so it might be worthwhile switching to a gluten-free brand.
If you are unsure, it’s always wise to ask. Ask your pharmacist or call the manufacturer. Be persistent in getting the answers you need. If you are trying to live a gluten-free lifestyle, then it is important that you know what you are putting in your body!