Those with celiac disease and gluten sensitivities understand the importance of avoiding gluten at all costs. Even the tiniest amount of gluten can leave them sick for days. If you are in the process of healing your gut, you are likely trying to avoid gluten too. Unfortunately, it is not as easy to do as one might think. If it were a mere matter of not eating breads, cereals and baked goods life would be less complicated. Instead, it is a complicated mine field ready to trip you up at a moment’s notice.  The good news is there are steps you can take to lessen the risks of encountering gluten cross contamination.

At Home

If you share a kitchen with a roommate or have family members that regularly eat gluten products, cross contamination is always a risk. You can reduce the risk by following a few simple guidelines.

  • Keep the kitchen clean and cooking tools separated.
  • Scrub the counter tops and keep them free of any crumbs.
  • Carefully clean cooking tools and serving pieces between uses.
  • Keep gluten free products away from gluten products.
  • Use a second gluten free toaster oven.
  • Label gluten free products with a permanent marker.

Dining out

Eating at home is easier as you know how your food is prepared and you are vigilant about avoiding cross contamination.  Restaurants may not adhere to such strict protocols to avoid gluten contamination. You may order an egg dish that was prepared in the same pan as an order of whole-wheat pancakes. Fried items can be prepared in the same fryer as breaded items.  It is one thing to ask about the ingredients and another to know how the food is prepared. The best way to advocate for yourself is to ask that your food be prepared in the following manner:

  • By using separate and cleaned cutting boards and utensils
  • In a thoroughly cleaned and separate pot or pan
  • Food preparers take extra caution to avoid cross contamination.

At the Grocery Store

“Gluten-free” does not always mean free of gluten. Gluten has many different names and a product that says its gluten free may still be unsafe for those with gluten sensitivity.  The Food Allergen Labeling Consumer Protection Act, passed in 2004 requires that fool allergens such as wheat, peanuts, eggs and dairy be listed on food labels.  The FALCPA does make it a little bit easier to tell if a product has some form of gluten, but it generally requires wheat to be mentioned.  You need to read the label and watch for gluten containing additives and other hidden sources of gluten.  Anything with wheat in it will be on the label; however, ingredients such as barley, rye, oats or their derivatives may not be.  Look for terms like hydrolyzed vegetable protein, hydrolyzed plant protein, and textured vegetable protein, all of which may have wheat in them.

The process used to manufacture, ship and store food presents issues too. There is a high likelihood the same plant that produced regular chips also produced the gluten free variety, offering plenty of opportunity for cross-contamination. Unless the label says “certified gluten free” or “pure uncontaminated” it is best to assume cross contamination may have occurred.

At the market, look for gluten free products in their own section. Most times the gluten free items are on the same shelves as along the wheat products.  This offers up yet another opportunity for cross contamination.

Ask for Help

Bringing your family and friends into the gluten free community is a great way to enlist everyone’s help with keeping you and those around you healthy. Seeking out support groups, where you can share recipes, best practices and exchange information is another way to stay on track. Speaking with a registered dietician will help you learn, how to read food labels, what to avoid and gain a better understanding of potential risks.

These steps are vital for those with Celiac disease and those with gluten sensitivities to avoid illness. They are also helpful if you simply wish to avoid gluten in an effort to heal your leaky gut and reverse the effectives of inflammation causing lectins found in grains.