9 Hidden Sources of Gluten
As the public learns more about the effects of gluten, more and more people are choosing to live gluten-free. Living with gluten-intolerance is getting easier as more companies and restaurants consider and label for gluten, but those diagnosed with gluten intolerance or celiac disease can still find themselves afflicted with a sudden bout of illness without being able to point to a source.
So, what gives? Many foods and products out there have hidden additives and unexpected sources of gluten, so knowing some of those hiding spots can give you a key advantage as you.
Here’s a few that might be lurking in your daily routine:
1. Impure Oats
Oats? Aren’t oats one of the gluten-free star players? Definitely. The oats themselves are gluten-free, but many manufacturers process and cut oats in a way that exposes them to gluten. Some manufacturers maintain a celiac-sensitive level of safety. We recommend seeking out brands with those high standards and gluten-free specific lines, like Arrowhead Mills.
2. Dog food
Ok, we’re not assuming you take nibbles of Fido’s kibble as an hors d’oeuvre. But, are you washing your hands after you feed him? Commercial pet food, especially dog food, is loaded with fillers and at the top of the list is usually gluten. You may be unintentionally consuming trace amounts, and that may seem of little import—until your body reacts. Be sure to wash your hands thoroughly after feeding your pets, or find a grain-free food for your furry friend.
3. Envelope Glue
Next time you’re sending out that birthday card, think twice before you lick the envelope. The glue on stamps and envelopes often contains leftover gluten from the manufacturing process, because flour is used to dry the glue. Use a sponge to wet your envelopes or get the peel-n-stick kind.
4. Skin care and beauty products
The majority of skin care products—like body lotion, sunscreen, cosmetics, and shampoo—contains some source of gluten because of the anti-caking properties in grains. For many products, ingestion is unlikely, but some cosmetics like lipstick can pose a tangible risk. They also rarely label it, because the parts per million are so far below the FDA requirements for labeling.
And for gluten-sensitive children, a lotion-covered hand reaching into the cookie jar could easily lead to ingestion. For cosmetics and hand lotions, look out for gluten-free labeling from trusted brands that commit to a high standards. For other lotions and other topical ointments, we recommend washing your hands as a precaution after use.
As with skin care products, medications, vitamins, and supplements are often made on an assembly-line where flour is used as an anti-caking agent. Increasingly, manufacturers are making that change so their products can safely consumed by all, but always check with their website to make sure your pills are gluten-free.
6. Meat substitutes
If you are one of the eaters who is trying to go both gluten-free and vegetarian, carefully read labels when you reach for those meatless “chick’n” nuggets. Vegetable protein mixes that strive to imitate meat almost always contain gluten as gluten is what gives these meat substitutes their chewy texture. If you are a vegetarian, avoid any fake-chicken products that lack explicit gluten-free labeling.
7. Malt and other some natural flavorings
Next time you have fish and chips, hold off on the malt vinegar. Many gluten avoiders know about malt, but don’t always realize that the words “natural flavoring” may include ingredients like graham, spelt, and kamut. There’s no need to panic when you see natural flavoring, though, FDA-regulated products require wheat to be listed, if the natural flavoring or protein is derived from wheat. Careful label reading will always win the day, though—you may find surprising sources like “smoke flavoring” contains barley flour. And, of course, if you do like fish and chips, be sure to use something like rice flour for the batter—here’s a great recipe to try.
8. Seasoning Mixes
Some seasoning and spice mixes sneak in the gluten to keep them from clumping. Usually they include wheat clearly listed as an ingredient, but some carry cross contamination risks in the factories. Taco seasoning kits and poultry mixes are most likely to have gluten, and Mrs. Dash products don’t claim gluten-free because of the manufacturing practices. Ones that are safe and labeled gluten-free include McCormick’s line of single ingredient spices and some of their popular mixes like Old Bay.
9. Cross Contamination
This last one might come as a no-brainer, but consider it when you’re out at restaurants and at home. Restaurants, even with a gluten-free menu are unlikely to have a quartered-off prep area for those menu items. Some restaurants will have higher standards in that area than others, so look for online reviews from other gluten-free eaters.
At home, consider labeling and maintaining separate containers of communal foods like peanut butter, butter, and spreads for those who are need gluten-free and not. An easy scenario to imagine is if your loved one or roommate puts peanut butter on his normal, gluten-filled bread and then wipes the excess peanut butter off on the rim of the jar. Now there is gluten in the peanut butter jar. Cross contamination at home is one of the biggest obstacles for families transitioning one or more members to a gluten free diet. Labeling and separate containers can be a solution to that.
Diligently reading labels and researching manufacturers is still your best protector from accidental ingestion. Thankfully, awareness is growing for the problems faced by those with gluten-intolerance and uncovering hidden gluten sources is becoming easier.
At Harmony Farms we strive to create an environment friendly to all Celiac Disease experiences and will help in any way that we can. Click here to read and print an extensive list of high quality gluten-free products that we sell and endorse. And, if you’ve been recently diagnosed, we recommend seeking out your local gluten-free network to help you with your decisions, like Celiac & Food Allergy Support group in Raleigh or your local branch of the National Celiac Association.