Gluten Inedible Products
A common question among the newly diagnosed with celiac disease, an autoimmune condition triggered by the presence of gluten (wheat, rye, barley and oats), is whether you should be concerned about gluten found in inedible products—products that you don’t eat but only use. The answer is yes. After using inedible products that contain gluten, make sure that you wash your hands well with non-gluten soap and water so that any residue found in the products will be washed away and not later find its way into your food. Inedible products include shampoos, conditioners, hair styling products, cosmetics, lip balms, nail care, soaps, lotions, sunscreens, laundry and household cleaning products, pet foods, arts and crafts supplies, etc.
The rule for these inedible products is the same as for any product containing gluten. Your food must not come in contact with it! Neither should your mouth. If you touch any product containing gluten, wash your hands with soap and water before eating your own gluten-free food. The tiniest bit of residue left on your hands can cause an adverse reaction. The fact that a reaction can occur with such minimal ingestion is the reason that inedible products can also cause a reaction and should be avoided or treated properly.
Most people with celiac disease do not get a reaction from merely touching gluten. The reaction occurs when the residue on your hands makes its way to your lips or into your mouth. This can be easier than you might think. There are many ways to ingest gluten. Take hair products. Unfortunately, a majority of hair care products contain gluten. Although you don’t intend to get any shampoo or conditioner into your mouth, the water that comes out of your hair with the shampoo can bounce off the shower wall or shower curtain and land on your lips. You won’t even notice yourself licking it off. Cosmetics, especially lipsticks, lip balms, nail polish and artificial nails, can also be a source of gluten. While lip balms and lipsticks are the more obvious sources for ingestion, nail polish and artificial nail products can also make their way to your mouth as you touch your food. Foundations, powders, blushes and bronzers can settle on your lips during application. They can also be a source of gluten if you absent-mindedly touch your face and then forget to wash your hands before eating. Washing your hands with confirmed gluten-free soap and water before you eat and getting into the habit of not touching your lips or mouth with your hands, may help keep you from ingesting the gluten in this manner. When you feed your pet, be especially careful. Many pet foods, especially dry pet food and treats, contain gluten. Make sure that you use the same precautions as you would use in handling any other type of gluten-containing food. Unfortunately, inedible products don’t have the same labeling laws and restrictions as food does. Sometimes a product will contain gluten without it appearing on the label.
Many manufacturers simply don’t have the ability to fully verify all of their ingredients because one ingredient can come from several sources. You can get some good advice and information on whether or not the products you use contain gluten from on-line celiac support groups. A quick search of the message board archives can pull up information on the specific brands and items that concern you. If nobody has any experience with the products that you are concerned about, you can either switch to products trusted to be gluten-free by others in the celiac community or withdraw from using all of the unknown products.
You can then slowly reintroduce them, one by one, to determine which one, if any, is causing a reaction. It is like adding new foods to your newborn baby. Individual products should be reintroduced several days apart from each other because reactions can sometimes take a few days to manifest. The bottom line is that if you suffer from celiac disease, it is your personal lifestyle and habits which will help you decide whether or not to take the chance of using inedible products containing gluten.