Oats Alert: Gluten-Sensitive Folks May Need to Watch Out!

If you’re one of those people trying to avoid gluten due to celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, you’re probably well aware of the need to stay away from wheat, barley, and rye. And you might think you’ve found the perfect substitute in oats, which are known for being filling and fiber-rich. But recent research into the molecular structure of oats suggests that for some, oats might not be as safe as once thought.

The issue at hand is that, for some individuals with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, oats too could be a source of harmful inflammation.

As you may know, celiac disease is an autoimmune reaction to gluten that affects approximately one percent of the entire American population. Like other chronic inflammatory conditions, celiac disease results from a complex interaction between genetic and environmental factors. To control the symptoms and avoid the damaging effects, people with celiac disease must adhere to a strict gluten-free diet.

A research team at the University of Oslo in Norway has discovered that for some people with celiac disease, eating oats can provoke a similar molecular reaction to that experienced from consuming wheat, barley or rye.

So, what’s the problem with oats?

To understand why oats can cause problems for some, we first need to look at what gluten is. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye that provides elasticity and helps these grains maintain their shape. Unfortunately, gluten can also cause inflammation in the small intestine for those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.

The issue with oats lies in the similar protein structure they have when compared to gluten. While oats do not contain the same proteins found in wheat, barley, and rye, they do contain avenin, a protein with similar properties. For some people, consuming avenin can cause the same issues as gluten.

How can you tell if oats are a problem for you?

Unfortunately, there’s no simple answer to this question. The best course of action is to pay close attention to your body and its reaction when consuming oats. If you notice symptoms similar to your reaction from eating gluten, you might be one of the unlucky few for whom oats are not suitable.

To be sure, you can talk to a healthcare professional, such as a dietitian or gastroenterologist, about your symptoms and the likelihood that oats could be causing them. They may be able to help guide you in determining whether oats should be included in your diet.

Alternatives to oats

If you find that oats are indeed a problem for you, rest assured that there are still plenty of healthy, gluten-free alternatives available. Some options include quinoa, rice, corn, millet, and certified gluten-free oats.

It’s important to note that you should always look for certification that a product is genuinely gluten-free. This is because many food manufacturers use the same equipment to process both gluten-containing and gluten-free products, which can lead to cross-contamination.

Maintaining a healthy, gluten-free diet

Inflammatory reactions to gluten can result in a variety of symptoms, including bloating, fatigue, stomach cramps, and diarrhea. Although it can be challenging to find suitable alternatives and maintain a healthy diet, it’s important to be aware of food sensitivities and avoid inflammatory triggers that can negatively impact your health.

Live a healthy life by educating yourself about gluten, oats, and other possible sources of inflammation. Make informed choices about the types of foods you consume and enjoy a balanced, nutrient-rich diet without the risk of exacerbating your celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. Consult with healthcare professionals to determine the best dietary plan for you and live a healthier, happier life, free from the discomfort and worry of gluten-induced inflammation.