Do You Have To Worry About Gluten Cross Contamination If You Have Celiac Disease?

If you deal with symptoms of celiac disease, you're not alone. According to The University of Chicago Medicine, one in 133 Americans has been diagnosed with celiac disease. This means more than 3 million people in the United States are living with this — potentially dangerous — inherited autoimmune disease. 

The experts at Mayo Clinic explain that for those who have celiac disease, consuming gluten triggers a reaction in the small intestine. This reaction that can cause symptoms such as diarrhea, fatigue, and anemia, among others. Consuming gluten can also lead to serious damage to the lining of your small intestine and inhibit the absorption of nutrients. As of this reporting, there is no cure for celiac disease, but it is possible to manage the condition through a strict gluten-free diet. This approach is currently the only treatment.

While it is clear that those with celiac disease should always avoid eating foods that contain gluten, is it necessary to also avoid coming in contact with gluten entirely?

Why cross-contact is dangerous if you have celiac disease

Beyond Celiac defines cross-contact as gluten-free foods coming in contact with foods that contain gluten. Different from cross-contamination – a descriptive suggesting a food item contains harmful bacteria — cross-contact refers to the presence of gluten, which can't be "killed off" like bacteria with heat or disinfectants. It is easier than you think to come in contact with gluten. Risk of cross-contact can even occur at home via shared toasters, convection ovens, condiments used as spreads on bread, cutting boards, and even sponges that have been used to clean cookware that was in contact with gluten-containing foods.

The National Celiac Association also warns that you can ingest gluten through the air. This is because if you inhale flour containing gluten, for example, it may enter your nose, mouth, or throat and ultimately reach your digestive system, triggering celiac disease symptoms. While you can't get gluten into your digestive tract through your skin, you should avoid putting your hands on your mouth if you have been handling food or food products containing gluten.

If you think you may have celiac disease, you should see your healthcare provider who will conduct a physical and discuss your family history. They may also administer a blood test to measure the level of antibodies in your blood as well as other tests to confirm whether you have celiac disease or another health issue, per Cleveland Clinic.