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A Gluten Free Fact Many People Don’t Know

A Gluten Free Fact Many People Don’t Know

Based on what I see in my office, I’d assume many of you reading this try and follow a gluten free diet.

Look, I’ll be honest.

Some people are gluten free simply because they think since everyone else is doing it, they should be too.

Well, if everyone else started eating marbles, would you do it too?

While that might sound overly sarcastic, one of the things I encourage people to do is think for themselves when they consider what they put in their bodies.

Honestly, some people respond the same way to diet facts as they do fashion trends.

Which really isn’t always the best way to treat your body.

Who knows what the next diet trend might be? ...and how it might affect your health.

The simple fact is the jury is out on gluten free diets. There are numerous studies supporting the avoidance of gluten for all people, and others which demonstrate that unless you have celiac disease, there’s no reason to avoid gluten. On the other hand,  I've seen that for many people,  going gluten free, actually does improve multiple factors of health and in my professional option it's wise to err on the side of being gluten free vs. not

So, while I’d never discourage someone from going gluten free, I would hope they did so because they did some research and decided they wanted to go gluten free because they reasoned it would be healthier...and it makes them feel better.

Either that, or because they decided they really wanted to eat crumby gluten free hamburger buns instead of the regular kind and spend 2x the price on things like cookies and pizza crusts.

Now like I said, there is only one group of people who absolutely must remain gluten free, and those are people with celiac’s.

However, if you’ve decided you want to remain gluten free for life, the following information will be useful to you as well. 

Oats...They’re Gluten Free But Still Might Not Be Good For You

Ever since people started to become interested in gluten free diets, there’s been some confusion on oats.

If you were to ask the average person who eats gluten free if they eat oats, they’d likely say “No.”

That’s because most people mistakenly believe oats contain gluten.

Just like a lot of people think baby oil is made from babies...OK, bad joke.

The truth is, the most common grains known to contain gluten are wheat, rye, barley, and triticale. 

Which means that if you’re avoiding gluten you could probably eat oats and be fine.

However, there are a few caveats to this, and this is where the confusion about oats originates.

Let me break them down for you.

1 - Oats might grow dirty:

One of the reasons people who want to remain gluten free should consider avoiding oats is because of where oats are grown.

If oats were grown all by themselves in a big oat field far away from other crops you might be able to eat them without issue.

The dig on oats is they’re frequently grown near fields with other grains. In those cases, it might be that grains like wheat, rye, barley etc. are transported by wind and animals into the oat crops.

Thus a harvest of “oats” might have other gluten containing grains intermixed.

While the amount of gluten might seem inconsequential, the fact is just a tiny amount of gluten can trigger an inflammatory response.

And this is one reason to consider skipping oat based products.

2 - They might be contaminated:

Let’s just say there’s a large field of oats and they’re grown far, far away from gluten containing crops. 

You’d assume they’re OK to eat, right?


If you’ve ever grabbed a box of gluten free anything and turned it over to read the ingredients you might have read a message that goes something like this:

"This food is prepared in a factory that also processes dairy, soy, wheat, yadda yadda."

Most people reading those labels dismiss them as unimportant. But the fact is, the processing equipment used to break down oats can sometimes contaminate those oats with gluten.

And as you might guess, that can be a problem for people who’re sensitive to even the smallest amount of gluten.

The Biggest Reason Oats Are So Confusing? 

I think the two reasons you read above are substantial enough to consider a kibosh on oats. 

If you can.

But the next reason is one of the more problematic aspect of oats and part of the reason there’s so much confusion related to this grain.

It works like this.

While oats don’t have the gluten protein to trigger reactions, they do contain another protein structurally similar to protein.

This protein is called avenin, and avenin is known to trigger an immune response in those with celiac’s in almost the same way gluten does

“A recent study showed that eating 100 grams (g) of oats a day for 3 days activated immune cells that targeted avenin, but only in 8 percent of participants.

Additionally, many participants reported digestive symptoms, but this was not related to immune cell activation. Their reaction could have been due to a "nocebo" effect - similar to a placebo, but producing harm. It could also have been because participants ate double the recommended daily serving size.

A further finding of the study was an increased immune cell reaction in people who ate barley prior to the 3-day oat study, though researchers were unsure why.

The study's authors concluded that smaller quantities of oats are probably fine for people with celiac disease.”

For people with celiac’s or a gluten sensitivity, there’s an easy way to see if avenin is harming you.

According to the North American Society for the Study of Celiac Disease, to test and see if oats are a problem, you should watch your anti-tTG antibody levels. 

The change in anti-tTG levels (anti-tissue transglutaminase) after eating oats will help inform you if you’re sensitive to the avenue in oats or not. 

A test is the surefire way to see if oats are affecting you. However, if you don’t want to go and get a test, you can always try eating a high quality oat product you know wouldn’t be contaminated with gluten and then document what happens.

If you eat oats and then notice your body reacts, write down what happens and then cut them out for 2-3 days and try it again.

If you’re noticing you don’t feel well after eating oats that will give you a reason to test anti-tTG levels and see if avenin is a problem.

The Verdict On Oats?

First, oats are gluten free.

That’s a simple fact backed up by analyzing the chemical structure of oats.

That being said, there are risks to consuming oats

Oats can either be dirty or contaminated (virtually the same thing, but separated by origin and processing); or the chemical structure of a protein known as avenin can cause complications.

I really don’t have a recommendation concerning oats, because there’s really no way for me to make a uniform conclusion on oats.

The best advice I can give you is, if you suspect they’re causing problems, then log what happens after you eat them.

If you suspect oats are a problem inside of a gluten free diet, then you might just want to leave them alone. 

Oats aren’t gluten…

But that doesn’t mean they’re entirely problem free either.


Talk soon,

Dr. Wiggy

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