Are Oats Gluten Free?

Oats are a popular and nutritious grain that can be enjoyed raw, cooked, or even as a topping, but are they gluten-free? Technically, yes. Pure oats do not contain any gluten, however, it's not as simple as that. Oats are often contaminated with gluten since they are processed in the same facilities as wheat, barley, and rye, which all contain gluten (via Kitchn).

Oats can also be contaminated with gluten in the field if they're grown next to fields of wheat. The degree to which commercial oats are contaminated can also greatly vary. For example, one box of oats may have more gluten than another box, even if the oats were processed at the same facility and at the same time. Regardless of how they are contaminated, a box of oats will most likely contain at least trace amounts of gluten unless the packaging specifically states that it's gluten-free.

What's wrong with gluten?

While many people can eat and tolerate gluten without a problem, some people can have adverse reactions to gluten. For people with gluten intolerance or gluten sensitivity, gluten can cause digestive issues (via Healthline). This is because the unique amino acid structure of gluten can obstruct the digestive enzymes in your gut. This can cause bloating, diarrhea, constipation, nausea, and abdominal pain, according to Medical News Today.

People with celiac disease, on the other hand, need to completely cut gluten out of their diets. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that causes the body to launch an immune reaction to gluten. This causes inflammation that damages the lining of the small intestine. While people with non-celiac gluten intolerance or sensitivity should still avoid eating gluten, it won't cause any permanent damage to your digestive tract, unlike celiac disease. If you think you might have an intolerance or insensitivity to gluten, you can try switching to a gluten-free diet to see if your symptoms improve.