Gluten Free Diet and Oats | Allergy

Gluten Free Diet and Oats

by Allergy Guy

Gluten Free Diet Oats

Many on a gluten free diet wonder if they are safe to eat oats or oatmeal.  Some sources say that oats are safe for celiacs, others say stay away.  So which one is it?  Are oats safe or not?

There are two problems with oatmeal.  Even if the first problem can be solved, the second one makes solving the first pretty much irrelevant.

The first problem with oats is that they can be contaminated with wheat, and wheat contains gluten.

The contamination may only be slight, but the contamination problem is huge.  Because the distribution system is not concerned with keeping oats separate from wheat (or from rye and barley either), wheat and other gluten-containing grains can show up as the odd plant growing in the field, or in the harvesting equipment, transportation equipment, grain elevator, mill, packaging equipment … you name it.

But how much gluten from wheat, barley or rye might end up in your morning porridge?  Not much.  Probably none most of the time.  But if you are the unlucky one to get a grain of wheat in your oatmeal one unlucky morning, then that’s all it takes to ruin your day, and probably the next few weeks besides.

“Gluten-free oatmeal” does exist.  It is specially handled to reduce or eliminate the chances of contaminating wheat and other gluten-containing grains entering the system.  Does that solve the problem?  Read on.

The second problem with oats makes the first one irrelevant.

Oats contain gluten.  Some argue that the gluten is sufficiently different from wheat gluten as to be safe for celiacs.  Others believe that they are too similar to be safe.  Even some proponents of gluten-free oats say that it should be consumed in moderation.  Perhaps that statement alone tells the whole story.

The fact is we don’t really know for sure if oat gluten is really safe for celiacs or not.  Some celiacs do not do well with oats, which serves as a warning to other celiacs who don’t notice any obvious symptoms.

In the end, you are best to avoid oats completely if you are celiac.  There are plenty of other grains and pseudograins to choose from when avoiding wheat and gluten.

The up-side of eating oats is a bit more variety and convenience.

The down-side is illness and potential organ damage by ingesting oat gluten.

Conclusion: avoid oats if you are celiac.

What is your experience with following a gluten-free diet and eating (or not eating) oats? Comments welcome!


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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Shannon September 11, 2011 at 18:15

Hi I have been very strict with my gf diet because I was diagnosed with celiac disease it was causing me to bleed internally. I also have dermatitis herpetaphormis I just recently started eating gluten free oatmeal and am now very Ill again with blisters on my knees face and fingers. So I advise no oats.


2 Guest December 2, 2009 at 12:57

Gave up gluten, IBS symptoms went away

I went on a gluten free diet several months ago and my IBS symptoms – gas, bloating, cramping, “urgency” that was pretty much ongoing all the time and keeping me up at night — pretty much went away. However, I have been eating gluten free oatmeal in the morning. I do still feel lethargic, but I also have a problem with waking up in the middle of the night and not falling back to sleep. I don’t think it’s related to the gluten in my diet. Now I need to tackle that problem, maybe through hynpotherapy… Any thoughts? By the way I have experimented with introducing gluten back into my diet and my other symptoms seem to gradually return over a period of days when I do so – not immediately.


3 admin December 2, 2009 at 19:42

Glad your gluten-free diet is helping you

I’m glad to hear your gluten-free diet is helping you.

I strongly recommend you cut out oats as well, and see what happens.

Let me know how it goes.

Mean while, I’ll see if I can find some products that might help you.


4 Laurie November 23, 2009 at 23:27

oat allergy?

My eating oats as breakfast oatmeal for the past week seems coincident to return of some symptoms– lethargy, itchy skin (break out), swollen fingers, stuffy sinus…. My diet had been gluten free–no wheat, rye, barley– or oats for more than 1 yr. These oats were “processed in a plant that used good manufacturing techniques– to avoid contact with wheat/barley/rye”.


5 admin November 24, 2009 at 13:28

oat allergy, or gluten allergy

Hi Laurie,

There are a few possible causes:

1) You’re allergic to oats
2) Oat gluten triggers your allergies
3) The oats were contaminated with wheat, barley or rye
4) Something else caused the symptoms, unconnected to oats.

Probably you’re better off avoiding oats, unfortunately.

Good luck with your gluten-free diet.


6 admin September 1, 2009 at 18:23

Oats and Gluten Allergy

Something not covered in this article: oats and $gluten-allergy$, as opposed to celiac.

If you are allergic to gluten, can you eat oats?

It really depends. If your gluten allergy is an annoyance, and you can live with the consequences, try eating oats and see what happens.

If your gluten allergy is more serious, or you simply don’t want to live with the consequences, you may be better off avoiding oats.

I think that in the case of a gluten allergy, it is more of a personal choice, where as with celiac, you are strongly advised to avoid all oats.


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