Food has become problematic these days: beers, soup bases, cereals, chocolates, pastas, rice, dressings, deli meats, seasonings, licorice, flavored teas, and flavored coffee drinks can easily carry gluten. Even your gum might contain some form of gluten. And tea bags sometimes use this protein to keep the bag closed. Tea makers also sometimes add barley in the herbal varieties.
Processed foods have an even higher chance of squeaking under the gluten radar. Sometimes the gluten-free determination must also factor in where the ingredient is made. If the label contains any of these words in the ingredients list, it is a sign there is gluten in the product:
Emulsifiers, flavorings, hydrolyzed plant protein, natural flavorings, stabilizers, starch, caramel color, spice, and herb blends.
According to Gluten-Free Diet: A Comprehensive Resource Guide by Shelley Case, RD, any of these items on labels can be a facade for gluten:
Barley (flakes, flour, pearl), breading and bread stuffing, brewer’s yeast, bulgur, durum, farro, hydrolyzed wheat protein, Kamut, anything malt (extract, syrup, flavoring, vinegar), malted milk, matzo, modified wheat starch, oatmeal, oat bran/flavor, rye bread/flour, seitan, semolina, spelt, triticale, wheat bran/flour/germ/starch, atta, dinkel, einkorn, emmer, farina, and fo.
There are always overlooked areas when going gluten-free, especially in the kitchen. Try out some of these tips to avoid cross-contamination in a home that isn’t totally gluten-free!
>> Prepare gluten-free foods on separate surfaces.
>> Thoroughly clean shared utensils.
>> Use two separate toasters or opt for a toaster oven with extra racks for gluten-free items.
>> Beware of crumbs that end up in condiments like jellies and dips.
>> Put gluten-free foods on the top shelf in pantries and refrigerators.
Gluten in My…What?
So you’ve mastered going gluten-free in the things you eat, but what about everything else? While gluten has this amazing ability to make items elastic and fluffy, it also helps items bind, which is why gluten can be found in surprising places.
Here are just some of the places gluten is hiding:
>> Beauty products This can be a deceiving category. Gluten can be found in ingredients such as: Avena sativa (oat kernel flour), cyclodextrin, dextrin, dextrin palmitate, hydrolyzed oat flour, secale cereale (rye) seed flour, wheat amino acids, wheat germ amidopropyl ethyldimonium ethosulfate, yeast extract, and many other ingredients! Check out glutenfreern.com to find the complete list.
>> Play-Doh Yes, even Play-Doh is not safe. There are plenty of recipes for a homemade gluten-free version online, however.
>> Medicine Gluten can be found in both over-the-counter and prescribed medications because of its binding properties. Talk to your pharmacist, call manufacturers, and read labels to ensure any medication you are taking is gluten-free.
>> Significant other This could be the biggest problem. If you live in a household where one of you is gluten-free and the other is not, the one with gluten sensitivity/celiac disease can be contaminated from kissing. Having mouthwash handy makes this less problematic.
Gluten is everywhere, but there are people out there—dietitians for instance—who can help you in the process. Once you get the hang of living a gluten-free lifestyle, it won’t seem so daunting. Just remember that asking questions, researching, and learning will help you on your gluten-free journey.