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Gluten Free

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Gluten Cross Reactivity: How to Avoid Cross Contamination

Not purchasing wheat bread is obvious. However, there are several items containing gluten that are not as evident. Unexpected gluten sources can include soups, salad dressings, sauces, and beers. Read on for more.

Gluten Cross Reactivity: How to Avoid Cross Contamination

"Gluten" has become a buzz word in the health world. A gluten-free diet is essentially an elimination diet, as gluten is found in an extensive list of foods. Removal of these foods has been a common trend to lose weight. However, adhering to a gluten-free diet and avoiding gluten cross-contamination is necessary for individuals who truly have a gluten-related disorder.

But what exactly is gluten and who needs to avoid it?

Gluten is the protein found in wheat, rye, barley, and triticale. Oats are generally recognized as safe but can become contaminated during processing. Avoiding gluten-containing foods is the only known treatment for individuals diagnosed with Celiac disease, a complex autoimmune disorder where the body basically attacks itself after the ingestion of gluten. The gastrointestinal (GI) tract is mostly effected, specifically the inner lining of the small intestine. Since the GI tract absorbs and utilizes the nutrients from foods, damage caused by gluten can lead to nutritional deficiencies. Unpleasant symptoms include abdominal bloating and stomach pain, chronic diarrhea, gas, constipation, and nausea and vomiting. Anemia, weight loss, headaches, and fatigue (just to name a few) can also arise. Even though some could have sensitivities or intolerances to gluten, those individuals would not experience the severity of intestinal damage nor test positive for celiac disease based on bloodwork.

Purchasing wheat bread is obvious. However, there are several items containing gluten that are not as evident. Unexpected gluten sources can include soups, salad dressings, sauces, and beers. The best practice is to purchase fresh foods or packages identified as "gluten-free" under The Food Allergen and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA). Proper education on following a gluten-free diet can alleviate associated gastrointestinal symptoms and decrease the potential for several vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Still, the accidental consumption of gluten can arise from unlikely sources and cross-contamination.

Six Ways to Avoid Gluten Cross-Contamination and Consumption:

1. Buffets
Foods from a buffet line has unlimited potential for gluten contamination. Utensils for designated foods can be swapped easily and gluten foods can contaminate its gluten-free neighbor. The safest practice would be to order strictly from the menu and avoiding the buffet entirely.

2. Kitchen Appliances
Toaster ovens can be a main concern when others utilize its use with gluten-containing products. Designating one toaster for strict gluten-free products can eliminate cross-contamination, as a few wheat crumbs could cause damage to the intestine and cause a cascade of unpleasant symptoms. Other safe precautions include thoroughly cleaning and sanitizing equipment after each use.

3. Deep-Fried Foods
Frying oil is continuously used in a fast-paced restaurant. Gluten-free foods can become contaminated after the fryer has been exposed to a wide variety of gluten-containing foods. Avoiding fried foods altogether will decrease odds of gluten consumption and contribute to an overall healthful diet.

4. Medications
Over-the-counter or prescription, the FALCPA does not comply for medications. Before starting on a new medication, call the physician and pharmacist and verifying the product is gluten-free to verify its ingredients.

5. Dietary Supplements
Dietary supplements are generally recommended to combat nutritional deficiencies often seen in gluten-related disorders. Since some supplements do contain gluten, it is important to determine if it is in fact gluten-free. "Contains wheat" is commonly seen on supplement products containing gluten. However unlike medications, dietary supplements are required to indicate clearly if wheat is an ingredient.

6. Uncommon Sources
Gluten is not only found in foods, medications, and dietary supplements. If following a gluten-free diet and still having signs and symptoms, look into the following culprits: toothpaste, mouthwash, and cosmetics.

Adhering to these tips can reduce the chance of gluten consumption. However like celiac disease, the gluten-free diet is complex. Individuals living with celiac disease truly need to eliminate gluten. Talking to a registered dietitian and physician is recommended to identify and determine nutritional needs.

Sarah Asay's Photo
Written By Sarah Asay, RDN. Published on November 24, 2015. Updated on August 31, 2019.


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