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Gluten-Free Myths Uncovered

Gluten-Free Myths Uncovered

There are a lot of gluten-free myths out there. I would like to debunk some of them. (This page is a work in progress.)

Myth 1: Vinegar is not gluten-free.
Truth: Most vinegars are gluten-free. The exceptions are malt vinegar and “flavored” vinegars, which have stuff added to them after the distillation process.

Myth 2: McDonald’s French Fries are not gluten-free.
Truth: A very small amount of gluten was in a flavoring used in the oil to par-fry the potatoes. The french fries have been tested and NO detectable gluten was found in the final product. Even the CSA believes them to be gluten-free. Now, you may not want to eat them on the principal that they once put even a small amount of wheat in them. That’s fine. But the bigger concern is the level of cross-contact caused by the obnoxious 16 year-old in charge of the fryer. If you’ve never had chicken nugget bits in your french fries, then you’re pretty lucky. And that is why I don’t eat their fries.

Myth 3: Alcohol from grain sources are not gluten-free.
Truth: The distillation process removes the gluten. I don’t know what kinds of alcohol are distilled, because I don’t drink it. I do know that beer is not distilled and does have gluten (unless you get one of the brands of gf beer).

Myth 4: Envelope glue has gluten.
Truth: I have not seen any proof that it does happen, though it still could. But, seriously, why would you want to put that stuff on your tongue anyways? I quit licking them when I was 10. Dab a little water on it and spread it around, and you’re set to go. Your tongue will thank you.

Myth 5: All oats are evil.
Truth: The main problem with oats is the way they are cultivated and handled. Most are planted along with some stray wheat seeds, grown in fields previously growing wheat, harvested by a machine that harvested wheat, stored in a silo that stored wheat… I’m pretty sure you get the idea by now. There are now gluten-free oats available from a few different companies, all (I believe) constantly testing to ensure they are gf. Gifts of Nature and Gluten-Free Oats are both certified gf by the Gluten-Free Certification Organization (they are very thorough). Bob’s Red Mill has gf oats that they test – but watch out, because they also have non-gf oats (from the non-gf facility). Creamhill Estates and Only Oats, both out of Canada, also have gluten-free oats.  There is a small percentage of people with Celiac Disease who appear to have an immune reaction to oats, similar to gluten. For this reason, it is suggested that you be gf for a year and have negative antibodies before trying gf oats. Then take it slowly. No more than a half cup (uncooked measurement) two times a week or less for awhile. Your body will not be used to this type of fiber, so it may cause a few abdominal problems while your body readjusts to the fiber.

Myth 6: All baking supplies are created equal.
Truth: There is a lot of variation in baking supplies. Clabbergirl and Rumford baking powders work differently (they are made by the same company). One brand of xanthan gum is less effective than other brands (and some people like it that way). Not all flours are ground the same, and they often taste different (especially bean and sorghum flours) from brand to brand. They may even absorb water at different rates. Just because a recipe doesn’t work right for you doesn’t mean the recipe is wrong – you are probably just using different brands of ingredients than the last person.

Myth 7:  The “Low Gluten-Host” (for Catholics) has gluten.
Truth:  In regards to the Benedictine Sisters’ host, the term “low gluten” is basically a technicality to circumvent [Catholic] Canon Law.  Canon Law requires “sufficient gluten to attain the confection of bread”–in other words, to stick together.
The Benedictine Sister’s host sticks together.  It is made of highly purified wheat starch.  It tests negative for gluten to the level it can be tested.  But, since there is no way to test that there is not even ONE molecule of gluten in it, the [Catholic] Church is allowing the assumption that there is, and that, since it sticks together, that’s enough.
There is NOT however, enough gluten to trigger the Celiac immune response.  The host is safe.  The only reason it isn’t termed gluten free is to allow it to fit into a loophole in Canon Law.  (As written by Bobbie Coughlin, co-chair of the Hartford Celiac Support Group, and host of the On-line Celiac Support Group at Delphi Forums.)  For more information, please contact the Catholic Celiac Society.
For those of you who are not Catholic, but take a sacrament or communion, there are other alternatives.  EnerG makes gluten-free communion wafers.  Many churches will allow rice cakes (choose a safe one like Lundberg – no Quaker), gluten-free crackers, or let you bring in homemade gf bread.  Talk to your pastor/preacher/bishop/whomever to see what will work best for you.


13 responses to “Gluten-Free Myths Uncovered”

  1. […] read more: Cassandra at Delightfully Gluten-Free debunks some of the long-standing gluten-free myths. Allison at Surefoods Living did a great analysis of gluten-free blue cheese […]

  2. looksgoodinpolkadots Avatar

    Having a 6yo who is Celiac and therefore GF, I am constantly searching for fast food treats for her. It sucks to NEVER be able to run through a drive thru! I once gave her McD’s fries… the manager used a clean fryer that had fresh oil and hadn’t prepared any other food that day. My daughter still reacted. I found that interesting… so I looked up the ingredients and here is what I found on McD’s website…

    ” French Fries:
    Potatoes, vegetable oil (canola oil, hydrogenated soybean oil, natural beef flavor [wheat and milk derivatives]*), citric acid (preservative), dextrose, sodium acid pyrophosphate (maintain color), salt. Prepared in vegetable oil ((may contain one of the following: Canola oil, corn oil, soybean oil, hydrogenated soybean oil with TBHQ and citric acid added to preserve freshness), dimethylpolysiloxane added as an antifoaming agent). *CONTAINS: WHEAT AND MILK (Natural beef flavor contains hydrolyzed wheat and hydrolyzed milk as starting ingredients).”

    Looks like that beef flavor might have enough wheat in for some people to react to… or per chance she reacted to the TBHQ, as we are a chemical free house as well due to her sensitivities, although I have never seen that kind of reaction from a chemical additive before!

    There is so much conflicting information out there! I go back and forth every day on whether Rice Dream Beverage is ok… afterall, it meets the 20ppm guidelines.

    Our current household stance (one child GF, one about to be in addition to myself) is to stay clear of all things that could have any trace of gluten for the first six months. Then maybe venture out a bit and watch closely for any reaction. We seem to be having good luck with K3 doing this… so that’s how I’m going to handle my diet as well as my youngest daughters!

    We are absolutely loving Bobs Red Mill Gluten Free Oats. Yummy! So nice to be able to bake with oatmeal again!


  3. Mary Avatar

    Jamie, i couldn’t help but worry that you may not understand the seriousness of a gluten allergy. After 6 mo. just staying gluten free never means you can “venture out a bit”. Even if you do not see visible signs of an intolerance doesn’t mean the bowels of your children are staying healthy. There can still be serious damage to their digestive tract even without any outward signs, i strongly recommend you don’t put your children through “testing” gluten products after you know they are intolerant. Studies have shown after constant irritation to the digestive tract from reactions of celiac, you’re putting them at risk for colon cancer or worse.

  4. Cassandra Avatar

    Mary, I don’t think Jamie meant that she was giving her child gluten products, but that she would start trying to go out to eat, doing something other than being in her kitchen where she could control everything.

  5. nepeht Avatar

    This is a very interesting article. Keep it up. I am learning from things like this. I also have a blog with similar interests at Stop by some time. William

  6. allergy free recipes Avatar

    Right on !! Damn I’m getting addicted to your blog 🙂

  7. Kathy Avatar

    Newly diagnosed, so am overwhelmed. Thanks for the straight info.

  8. cheryl wilson Avatar
    cheryl wilson

    I was diagnosed 6 months ago. For 3 months I still felt rotten,sick all over and my head in a fog. I began doing carrot juice everyday with other healthy vit, lots of flaxseed and barley max. The next 3 months I was on top of the world. I used a wrong hair spray with gluten in it and now for the past 2 weeks I’m back the way I was. I’m very discouraged. I try to eat at home, fruits veg and some meat,fish, chicken. Do others experience somthing like this? All that has gluten in it is scary. How do others react when they get gluten and did know there was gluten in it? I need some answers. I did go to the support grout in Louisville Thur. Go some answers. Any help will be truely appreciated.

    1. Deirdre Avatar

      I completely understand where you are at right now. I am 2 years into it, but remember very well those first 6 to 12 months. Hellish! Yes, you are very sensitive right now. Your reaction may diminish over the next several months if you continue to ingest no gluten. I have never had an issue with hairspray, but had similar problems with the dust from horse feed. Two weeks seems like a very long time. Are you positive you are getting it from no where else? Have you gotten rid of your old teflon pans, plastic and wooden utensils, and strainers? All of these are potential issues, even if cleaned and cleaned again. Did you get new sponges?

      Hang in there. Yes, at first it is insane how senisitive (hyper-sensitive!) your body becomes to gluten, but as you heal, your reactions should be less severe. The key for me was to be super, crazy, insanely diligent the first year. I went everywhere with GF protein bars and pretty much didn’t eat out at all. Now, although on occasion I get a “hit” of gluten, the reaction is shorter and less intense, although never fun. Yes, life WILL get better!

      1. cheryl wilson Avatar
        cheryl wilson

        Since I wrote last I ended up in the hospital dehydrated and so low in vitamins, iron, protein etc. Other intestinal problems not letting vitiams to my mind. I am better and my husband has chosen to go a gluten free with me!!! You gave me some ideas as to throwing away some wooden utensil, strainers etc. Thanks again for responding.

  9. Dawn Avatar

    NEVER let your guard down! & FYI on McDonald’s Fries

    I am GF due to a severe wheat allergy with an all out immune response including: hives, loss of hearing, numb hands, a week long gluten hang-over,and arthritis. I went GF in 2007 after what could have been a one way trip to the ER. I am recently 3 years GF and doing great!

    I had severe hives from eating a small McDonald’s (USA) fries. My arm was covered with hives 15 minutes after eating them. That was a record! A terrifying, mind numbing record. It was early on, and I had no idea fries could be a problem.

    Since then, I’ve had only three mishaps, with God’s help, and an ever present defensive strategy. I take personal responsibility for every bite or sip that I take. That means reading labels, talking to waiters, chefs, hostesses, and never eating in uncertainty.

    The most shocking incident was from what I call gluten paw. Gluten paw happens when people unknowingly transfer gluten, with their hands, into what should be my pristine setting.

    My dear friend educated herself very well, so that I could eat at her house. She wanted us to be like normal friends, instead of a freak show. She had safe popcorn, a clean machine, and I can’t believe it’s not butter spray! Her husband(a lovely person) had eaten a few slices of New York Style Pizza about half an hour before I started eating the popcorn.I saw him do this. He casually reached into my bowl. I was watching the movie, and not on my usual ready alert level. I continued to eat, and soon had hives.

    My church serves my communion host in a sealed pouch. I do not take wine, as it’s lousy with bits. Safety first.

    I don’t mean to be a buzz kill, but staying healthy is everything. The social aspects of this can be tuff, but I need to be tuffer. I am young, and I want to be old. 🙂

    God Bless!


  10. Cheryl Avatar

    Having already been diagnosed years ago with Chronic Fatigue, Fibromyalgia, and Gastro-Intestinal Reflux Disease (GIRD), it was a complete shock to me to be diagnosed with Celiac Disease just about 5 months ago. Reading the comments here, made me realize the main reason I’m not getting better faster. We’re living with our daughter and son-in-law and their adorable dog, and there is a lot of cross-transfer in the kitchen that I probably wasn’t aware of. To top it off, I was just diagnosed with Lupus, as well, and the doctors suspect Sjogren’s disease. I feel like a guinea pig and I’m not liking it one bit. The gluten-free food is fairly expensive because I can’t cook from “scratch” very often because of debilitating pain and exhaustion that I’m working on. My husband and I are both older and disabled, but he’s helping tremendously once he learned to read even frozen packages of broccoli properly. If it says anything other than broccoli, I told him to drop it and run…to the next brand. I was surprised at how many contained wheat and milk products. I appreciate the comments from those who have written (above) and realize that I still have a lot to learn. My next quest is the gluten-free makeup, which I need desperately, and I just found several sites for that. The question is, how well does it cover the ravages of disease and rosacea? My dermatologist wasn’t much help in that department…he doesn’t really think makeup is important enough to worry about it. I won’t stop checking into things and learning, and if I learn something really great, I’ll come back here and let you all know! Thanks for the insights. Much luck to all…

  11. cheryl wilson Avatar
    cheryl wilson

    I wrote how awful I felt on March 15,2010 which was about a year ago. How different I feel today. I feel wonderful with much energy. If I get into gluten I am hardly affected but I stay away from all that I am aware of. I’ve found so many foods out there for us to eat and I don’t feel sorry for myself like I did when first diagnosed. One does feel so much better as your body heals. I am so grateful for my health.