Going Gluten-FreeSeptember 28, 2011

One Size (Doesn’t) Fit All

Comments (10)

Posted by Living Without special projects editor Laurel Green

You know those dresses or bathrobes that claim, “One size fits all”? Well, they lie. They don’t fit a 5-foot, 2-inch 90 pounder and at the same time fit a 5-foot, 11-inch 300 pounder. They just fit most of us.

I find the same principle is true of food. When I eat eggs in cakes or cookies, they only show up on my hips. But if I eat fried eggs, in particular, fried eggs served on styrofoam plates at a well-known fast-food place, my face immediately looks like “Strawberry Fields Forever.” My answer?  Avoid fried eggs, especially fried eggs served at that place on styrofoam. 

Removing all names, a recent poster on Living Without’s website wrote: “I'd be very careful about using XXX’s gluten-free oats. I was so happy to find what I thought was a gluten-free oatmeal only to become very, very sick after eating it. I personally would never use this product again.”

Like the shortlist of manufacturers of certified gluten-free oats, the company that produces this particular product has gone to the trouble of certifying its oats as gluten free. This company states, “Our oats are pure. They are grown by over 200 farmers on clean, dedicated oat-growing fields. They plant only "pedigreed" seed stock. Each farm delivery is sampled hundreds of times and tested with an R5 ELISHA gluten test to ensure the absence of gluten. Advanced color-sorting removes undetected impurities. Roasting enhances that wholesome, robust flavor you expect. The oats are packaged in our 100% gluten free facility and tested for gluten again to ensure their purity.”

Most gluten-free people, including those with celiac disease, would not have a reaction consuming a reasonable amount of certified gluten-free oats. But a tiny minority would. (Celiac expert Stefano Guandalini, MD, says that less than 1 percent of celiacs show a reaction to large amounts of gluten-free oats in their diet.)

Why might a person react? Maybe it’s the increase in dietary fiber (oats are extraordinarily fiber rich). Or maybe the person is sensitive to the avenins (proteins) in oats. Or maybe they’re intolerant or allergic to oats. Or maybe they’re sensitive to the ultra-low ppm gluten that slipped under the GF-certification radar.  

In a sense, does it matter? (Yes, consulting with your doctor is essential. Yes, an official food-allergy diagnosis is helpful. But you know what I mean.) If oats make you ill, avoid them. If anything makes you ill, avoid it. Know your body. Do the detective work on the products you consume. Read every label, every time.

One size doesn’t fit all. What works for someone else—or maybe almost everyone else--may not work for you.

For more about gluten-free oats, including how much experts say most celiacs can safely consume each day, click here.



Comments (10)

Good comment, Catherine. Introducing a new food to the diet of someone with any GI issues is best done a little bit at a time...and tiny is the right word to use. Oats, GF or not, are likely to introduce a radically increased amount of fiber to a gut just not used to it. If you think you are really craving something and you overdo it at all, the results can be...well, let's not say catastrophic, but it can ruin your day. I recently OD'd on polenta...and ended up in the hospital with symptoms of a heart attack. Stomach just couldn't take the overload...so if you are going to re-introduce something into your diet, easy, easy does it!

Posted by: Elgie | October 5, 2011 1:37 PM    Report this comment

I also tolerate GF oats well. I really feel for the disappointment of those who were hoping to tolerate them but could not. I would never have dared to try them without the recent articles in Living Without and the Canadian Celiac Association website.

From the strength of symptoms for those who are unable to tolerate them though, I would think that if you are going to give GF oats a try, it would be wise to make the first taste a very tiny amount and gradually work up to more if tolerated. If I had the severe and immediate symptoms that some Celiacs experience, I might not have tried oats at all. I am sorry to hear that so many have gotten so sick from something they expected would be safe.

Posted by: Catherine K | October 5, 2011 1:24 PM    Report this comment

This past year I was excited to see gf oats..I had been missing my oatmeal since being diagnosed with celiac in 2007. I drove to the health food store and purchased "Bob's Redmill gf oats" I was very happy the next morning having my hot oatmeal. By that evening I was crawling back and forth to the bathroom with vomiting and dirarrhea!! I lost count after the 11th episode and was laying on my bathroom floor with bile dripping from my nose. I remember thinking this is it for me .... knowing that I did not want to deal with the drama at the hospital with I'V's (no veins left) and besides there is nothing they can do anyway. As the days followded I was able to keep down sips of water, then eventually herbal teas..I was taking the Glut Ease (digestive enzymes with pro-biotics) that did not help at all. I lost 8 lbs in just 3 days and it took many weeks to recover from the pain and the brain fog and getting the feeling back in my hands. Whenever I walk past that package I remember it well...no oats for Celiac's, I don't miss oatmeal anymore.

Posted by: Patricia M | October 3, 2011 3:57 PM    Report this comment

Oats are not gluten free. The oat storage protein consists of a high percentage of gliadin and glutenin. The oat gluten is slightly different in configuration than the gluten in wheat but can still activate the wheat gluten receptors in about half the people tested in some research studies. GS is tricky by nature. Most of the adverse effects have no immediate symptoms such as osteoporosis or autoimmune thyroid problems. Even antibody tests for oats and corn are not that good. Many people who shouldn't be eating them test negative. If you have overt symptoms from eating oats and corn, you have your answer. If you don't, maybe they won't cause significant damage.

Posted by: Daniel S | September 29, 2011 6:37 PM    Report this comment

I bought some gluten-free Chocolate Chip Raisin Oatmeal cookies a week ago, made with gluten-free oats. I was not intending to eat them, since my alternative medicine doctor advised me against eating even gluten-free oats. The day after I got them, I forgot they had oatmeal in them and ate 1/2 a cookie. Within minutes, my stomach started burning and it felt like a fire going up my esophagus. This was a lesson I needed to learn! No more oatmeal for me!

Posted by: Joyce G | September 29, 2011 4:26 PM    Report this comment

I think the whole point of the article is to say "don't bash on gluten free oats"! If you cannot tolerate them, please do not eat them! There are lots of people with Celiac Disease who can tolerate them, and love them! The GF oats that are available on the market are highly tested for gluten, and they go to extraordinary lengths to make sure they have the best chances of staying GF through the manufacturing and packaging process. But again, there are just some products that your body may not like, so you just need to avoid them. I've never been diagnosed with a "red meat allergy", yet when I eat red meat, I feel terrible! I just know that even though others really love red meat, I don't eat it. Pure and simple! Same goes for oats :)

Posted by: GFTiff | September 29, 2011 2:56 PM    Report this comment

I ate Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Quick cooking oats this morning and had indigestion for about 3 hours. I was very disappointed as the other Bob's stuff has been OK for me.

Posted by: Jackie H | September 29, 2011 2:44 PM    Report this comment

Yes, what works for one.... I personally am fine with oats, quite often I deal with steel cut better than rolled. Now the thing that does make me ill is eating anything warm or hot off of styrofoam. If you are bothered by corn (and many celiacs are) you should avoid styrofoam, especially the biodegradable plates, cutlery etc. Even the new plastics are made from corn. So that may be the difference you're experiencing with the eggs, and the fried grease would cause the foam to melt slightly, and the oil they fried them in might be corn oil. :( Stick with paper.

Posted by: Lisa R | September 29, 2011 2:10 PM    Report this comment

I tolerate oats well, and it's a good thing. Most baked goods contain little or no fibre, and that includes gf bread. Oats contain abundant fibre. Also, I like to have goodies on hand to offer guests with tea. Oatmeal cookies provide a familiar flavour that everyone seems to like, which can't be said of a lot of treats made with gf flours. There are commercially available cookies that are palatable enough, but most of them seem to contain soy, which I react to. Many celiacs and many others who are gluten intolerant can eat pure oats without symptoms. If you can't, if you are one of those who react to avenins or are just allergic to oats (my sister, for example) please concentrate on those things that you can enjoy, without trying to frighten someone who may be working up to trying oats.

Posted by: Carol C | September 29, 2011 2:01 PM    Report this comment

Good article. Frankly, I am disappointed to see this embracing of oats as GF. Like you, I tried them, only to get sick with the same kind of symptoms as when I am glutened. I think that there needs to be a much more thorough investigation of oats before boldly claiming they are GF and safe.

Posted by: Jerri M | September 29, 2011 12:53 PM    Report this comment

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