For three million Americans that suffer from celiac disease or the estimated 14 million on a gluten-free diet, avoiding foods with wheat, rye or barley is a daily ritual. Now, a growing number of everyday products, like lipstick and toothpaste, are being created gluten-free.
After learning she had celiac disease, Caroline Shannon-Karasik wiped gluten off her menu.
“I was experiencing the typical stomach pains and gastrointestinal issues,” said Caroline.
Her diet wasn’t the only thing needing a makeover.
“I was really surprised to find out something like shampoo or toothpaste would have gluten,” she said.
While most of us think gluten is only in food, it’s actually used in medications, cosmetics, oral care, skin care, even children’s toys. Now, a growing number of non-food items are being marketed as gluten-free.
Dr. Joseph Murray of the Mayo Clinic believes the trend is a part of the gluten-free food frenzy.
“Gluten is becoming almost fashionable to avoid,” he said.
For those with celiac disease, gluten-free, non-food products may be necessary. The amount of gluten it takes to do harm varies from person to person.
“Patients who have celiac disease in particular must avoid any source of gluten where the gluten can get into their bodies,” said Dr. Murray.
Experts recommend patients choose lipsticks, mouthwash and toothpaste that are gluten-free.
For those with celiac disease, when gluten is absorbed by the gastrointestinal tract, symptoms can be triggered, like diarrhea, bloating, headache, abdominal pain and fatigue.
“Even if they’re ingesting gluten and get no symptoms, they can have significant damage to the intestine with ongoing low-level exposure,” said Dr. Murray.
For children with celiac, the rules are a little different. Parents should stick with body lotions, toys, even arts and crafts, that are gluten-free.
“Because children will be children and what’s in their hands will end up in their mouths,” said Dr. Murray.
Gluten-free products are not regulated, but it’s still important to read labels.
“Know the words wheat, rye, and barley and their derivatives, and call manufacturers,” said Alice Bast, President of the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness.
Caroline uses everything from gluten-free lipstick to lip balm.
“It brings me peace of mind,” she said.
If you have a severe allergy to wheat, Dr. Murray says it’s important to avoid products with gluten altogether, even those that are applied to the skin.