Oats Wheat

Oats & Celiac Disease


The list of grains that people with celiac disease must avoid includes not only wheat but also rye and barley.

Scientists studying cereal grains are doing a lot of research to try and find more safe food for people with celiac disease to eat, because the demand for other options is so great. There are other grains that are safe. However, the question of whether or not oats are safe for people with CD to eat has been hard to answer definitively.

There are people who have reported symptoms when they eat oats. Is this because the proteins in oats are close enough in structure to the gliadins in wheat gluten, or is it because oats are frequently processed in ways that lead to cross contamination of oats with other grains? A related question is – are there species of oats that are different enough that some are dangerous to people with celiac disease while others are not?

When tested, there have been two peptides, or pieces of protein from oats called avenins that might be recognized as “T cell epitopes” in patients with celiac disease. It has been suggested that some oats may have these avenins while others do not, leading to the difference in tolerance between different oats.

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One group of researchers looked at 14 different oat (also called Avena) species to see if they all contained the avenins recognized by T cells from affected people, or if these protein pieces really different from one oat type to another.

Each oat plant had as many as 10 avenin genes. The proteins themselves were found in four clusters, and two of these had the specific avenins recognized by T cells from people with CD. Every single oat species studied had these two avenins. The researchers concluded that it would be extremely doubtful that any oat variety is free of these protein pieces, which means that any difference in reaction to oats is not because some are free of related proteins while others are not.

However, further analysis showed that the suspicious avenins are not close enough to the pieces of gluten to actually trigger reactions in patients with celiac disease. Cloning all of the genes allowed them and the proteins they tell the body to make to be closely studied. None of these protein pieces are the same as those in wheat, barley and rye; they are not what are called “gluten epitopes.” Also, they are all almost certainly digested by enzymes in the gastrointestinal tract, and unlikely to arrive at the small intestine intact. Even if they did, the difference between these and the pieces of protein from wheat, barley and rye are great enough to conclude that they will not cause celiac disease reactions or symptoms.

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The scientists therefore concluded, after studying all the proteins and pieces, that there are no oat species dangerous to people with CD.

This is important because oats are extremely nutritious as compared with other tolerated grains. They contain soluble fiber of high quality, which is missing in a gluten-free diet without oats.

The research was done by scientists from Wageningen UR in the Netherlands. This company as well as other companies is making products using oats that are free of gluten contamination during processing. Breads and breakfast foods are already available, with more on the way.

Londono D. M., van’t Westende W. P. C., Goryunova S., et al. Avenin diversity analysis of the genus Avena (oat). Relevance for people with celiac disease. Journal of Cereal Science. Volume 58, Issue 1, July 2013, Pages 170–177.

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  1. I have Celiac disease and have been unable to eat oats without having severe eczema occur . It is suggested in the study that oats are not a problem but my body is reacting to something in the oats.
    Joyce, St Andrews NB

  2. Thank you so much for clarifying the gluten- oat debate. It really cleared up the cloud in my head. Now I can eat my delicious oats in harmony!

  3. The main problem with eating oats is crosscontamination. The combine used to harvest the oats could have just finished harvesting a crop of wheat or barley and not only has dust from the last crop but some grains are left in the equipment. You should therefore only purchase oats that are the only crop that farmer grows and has no adjoining neighboring glutenous fields.

  4. Thanks everyone…your information is invaluable. Can anyone tell me why I would have the same reaction to eating peppers (any and all) as I do eating wheat. I am Celiac…4 years now.

  5. I thing the glycemic index is higher on oats because my suger drops fast after eating oatmeal. This is why i eat millet evey single day. With flax and buckwheat in my Qai cereal.

  6. Hi. I have RA and in addition to avoiding gluten and dairy, I need to avoid nightshade vegetables–any and all peppers, eggplant, tomatoes and white potatoes–as these vegetables cause inflammation. Maybe peppers cause inflammation for you just as gluten does?

  7. I love to eat oats, particularly steel cut oats. I have been told they can cause inflammation and for someone who suffers from fibromyalgia should avoid them.

  8. I am so glad I found your site, it has been a huge help to me..I have not been diagnosed with celiac but gone back and forth several times on gluten free and feel much better eating this way, not having the constant diarrhea,bloating and gas as when eating gluten..it’s very hard to adapt a spouse with a love of wheat and sweets

  9. Enjoyed reading all the responses on oats, I can nots eat any of the newer products that are coming out from known brands which have been okay for
    me and as soon as the oats was added, didn’t matter what brand I just
    Cannot tolerate the oats too bad because I know that oats are good, oh
    I’am so grateful to have been diagnosed with this disease suffered so many
    years. Thank you so much for all the good info I will be receiving.

  10. So far, I have been able to tolerate gluten-free oats which are processed in a wheat-free facility(that’s what the label says). At least, I think I can. are these wheat-free facilities really wheat-free? Can I trust these wheat-free facilities? If the brand says processed in a wheat-free facility, is it truly wheat-free? Hildamary

  11. I’ve been diagnosed with a gastroparesis disorder for over 3 yrs and have a very hard time to eat since. I took pill to help me eat and be sick, but i still have trouble to eat. i try many different and since christmas i try and still learn to eat gluten free. It was amazing since i eat gluten free i eat much better, able to eat meat that didn’t before, feel more healthy and less sick. So thank you

  12. I would like to commend Rod on his Feb. 24th comment. He has done his research. Cross contamination is a problem with oat fields that may be farmed close in fields growing wheat and barley. A dedicated oat field far away from any farmers growing wheat or barley is the only safe oat a celiac should ever consume and that is if and only if their system can tolerate it. Try a little first in moderate amounts to see if you can. Instant oats (as in instant oatmeal porridge) is a real no-no. They are contaminated.
    Oats grown in dedicated fields far removed from contamination will say so on their packaging. Yes, unfortunately they are a little more expensive to purchase however you will know they are safe.
    I sincerely hope this information helps any person with celiac disease.

  13. I wanted to email this site to a friend , i use ‘ Outlook Express,” but not having much sucess at present

  14. I have joined this site about 3 weeks ago, i’m learning so much, i have not been diagnosed as yet but i have noticed when i eat certain foods i get tired and my stomach reacts. i recently went to my dietician and told her that whenever i eat oats, i have to run to the bathroom, now i know the facts, thank you

  15. Great to hear you found us! We try to provide our members with the latest research, up to date information, helpful tips on living gluten free, as well as lots of great tasting gluten free recipes.

  16. Why do the cereal companies add malt flavoring to things like cornflakes and rice krispies….I can eat the gluten free, but not the regular ones….I have noticed malt as an additive in other foods as well…..

  17. Malt is created (usually) from sprouted barley grain, that has been dried and ground. Its starches are converted into sugars that creates a sweet tasting powder with a hint of roasted caramel. This unique flavor lends itself to enhance baked goods (especially when paired with vanilla or chocolate…or beer). Why companies don’t remove it… my only guess would be it would cost more money to develop a comparable replacement. Although there has been a huge shift in removing gluten sensitive ingredients from processed foods, so we can only cross our fingers and hope this trend continues!

  18. No, gluten is harmful in very small amounts. One doctor compared eating a little gluten to being a little pregnant.

  19. Does anyone have the same problem that I have. I was diagnosed with Celiac about 7 years ago. I went on a gluten free diet. It helped but I still had problems. I was under the care of a wonderful doctor who diagnosed me early.

    It was finally determined that I am allergic to all lectins. (Gluten is a lectin, but seems that all foods that grow in the ground contain lectins. I take two pills (either Lectin Lock or Lectin Defense before eating anything) This helped quiet a lot, but still have problems…especially at night. Gas, bloating, and stomach distress.

    I have talked with a number of people who are sensitive to Gluten, or have Celiac, but have never met anyone with problems like I have.

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