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Mulching Straw - A Concern?
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Is exposure to straw (the kind used to mulch gardens, cover new grass as it grows, etc.) a possible source of glutening? My daughter was doing great until recently, when she started complaining of tummy aches in the car again. She always had stomachaches in the car before diagnosis, and I'd always assumed it was motion sickness, but the tummy aches stopped a few weeks after her diagnosis, so in retrospect I think it was probably celiac-related. Anyhow, she had virtually no tummy complaints in the car for the last ten months. Then they started up again a few weeks ago. We haven't introduced any new foods or vitamins or eaten at any restaurants, and I just couldn't figure out what the problem could be. Then I remembered that I transported a bale of mulching straw in my car around the time the stomach pains restarted. Could she had been glutened from inhaling straw dust? I feel so stupid that it hadn't even entered my mind to be concerned about the straw...

It was real straw, not hay - so no seeds. I called the garden center and they weren't sure but said it was probably oat straw. Could be rye, though. We're in New England, and wheat is not typically grown here, but rye is sometimes grown as a cover crop. I don't really know how the seed heads are removed from grain to make straw, but if it's from oats it could still have been harvested on equipment with rye cc. There was quite a bit of straw dust in the car. I just did a super-thorough vacuuming, washed all windows and surfaces, hosed down her car seat and washed the cover, etc. I really have no idea whether this is a reasonable thing to be concerned about, or whether the chance of glutening from straw is miniscule. Does anyone know more about this?

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She would have to swallow a grain/ seed. I doubt a grain could continually fly around in the air? I know, some will disagree but I think common sense is that it isn't gluten. Could she be allergic to it? That would be different.

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As a general rule, in my experience, straw is made from the leftovers from glutenous grains. The grains are harvested, then what's left is used for straw, leaving nothing as waste. While possible some seeds may have been left, it would have been complete, whole seeds and she would have had to get one in her mouth. The dust is the same dust you would get from any dried plant being bumped along and pushed around blah blah blah. But any few seeds that might have remained won't break down into dust just from being left and baled into the straw. It is so far in the realm of unlikely as to be nearly impossible to be a celiac reaction from the straw. I would also look either at an allergic reaction to it, or possible CC that happened in some other way if you're sure it is celiac related.

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Hay is GRASSES.  Often it is clover or alfalfa and other grass.

Straw Is oats or wheat.  I find it easy to breath in the dust of these- if I work with it.

 

It may depend on the make up of what you are calling straw.  I learned this from 7 years of farm life.

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This was true straw (not hay) - just the long stalks, with the seed heads removed. The garden center confirmed that it came from a grain and thought it was most likely oats, but they said it could be rye. They get their supplies from various sources so we don't know which farm this came from. It was local, though, so very unlikely to be wheat (which is not grown much around here).

Kareng and Adalaide, I hope you are right...There were indeed little bits of dust flying around all over, and we definitely did breathe it in, but when I went to vacuum the car I didn't see any actual seeds. The bale was in the back of a station wagon, with no barrier separating it from the seats, and bits blew around everywhere when we rolled the windows down. It was all the way up on the front mats and in all the seat cracks - just tiny pieces, but lots of them. (My car is not normally messy like this, really!) We had a 45-minute drive home that day, with my daughter and the straw both in the car, and then a couple weeks with just the leftover straw bits not vacuumed up.

She does have some pollen allergies, but she gets typical allergy symptoms from that (runny nose, itchy eyes, sneezing), not tummy aches. The tummy aches stopped within a week or two of her diagnosis, while her allergies continued, so I'm pretty sure she is being glutened by something. Her behavior has deteriorated lately too. She may be getting glutened from other kids at preschool, although the teachers are super-careful and she didn't have any problems there for the whole school year, until recently. But crumbs from other kids' lunches are always a concern, no matter how careful we are.

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I just did a super-thorough vacuuming, washed all windows and surfaces, hosed down her car seat and washed the cover, etc. I really have no idea whether this is a reasonable thing to be concerned about, or whether the chance of glutening from straw is miniscule.

 

Shelley Case, a celiac expert says:

 

As for handling straw (hay), technically it should be 100% grass. However, since it is baled after the growing season it makes sense (intuitively anyway) that it may contain some grain. Hands and clothes should be thoroughly washed after handling hay.

 

 

 

I would say, then...since you have thoroughly cleaned the car and all the surfaces,  I sincerely doubt that is the cause of her latest round of tummy aches. And if it makes you feel any better, I have handled straw since DX and I washed my hands after and nothing happened.

I am pretty sensitive to gluten CC.

 

Sometimes kiddos get tummy aches (as do adults) and it has nothing to do with gluten. And sometimes, we all get a  tad cranky (and again, nothing to do with gluten) 

 

Don't overthink this. :) 

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Thanks for the info, IrishHeart. Unfortunately I didn't wash or vacuum the car at all until today, when I suddenly realized the straw might be a problem. We've been driving around with the dust and bits all over for 2-3 weeks. I don't remember exactly when the tummy aches started up again, but it's been about that long (she's doubled over crying, every morning and evening on our commute, just like she was before diagnosis - and the pain lasts all evening).

Anyhow, I guess we'll know in a few weeks, when she's scheduled for her follow-up blood tests and GI appointment. Since the tummy aches have been a daily thing for quite a while now, hopefully he'll look into some other possibilities if it's not from glutening. Her tTG has continued falling but still hasn't quite normalized after almost a year. She may just be slow to heal, and the tummy aches may really be from carsickness that just happened to go away for the last ten months and come back recently. The GI won't run the DGP tests again for follow-up, much to my dismay, and her regular doctor's office just says to tell the GI about the stomach pain when we see him in early July. If the straw dust is the problem, we'll hopefully see improvement before then, now that it's cleaned up.

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Honestly, if it were a  "gluten" issue...wouldn't you also have had symptoms?

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I'm not sure. I had a week of awful diarrhea in mid-May that prompted my own GI to schedule me for a colonoscopy this month, which I'm dreading...but I'd assumed it was a separate issue from gluten because I hadn't been taking any risks with my diet. I still have no definitive diagnosis, so when the diarrhea returned after almost a year gluten-free, they wanted to take a look around for other problems. Ugh.

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Update: Well, it seems like the straw really might have glutened both of us. My daughter's tTG had dropped steeply in the first six months after her diagnosis, and then more slowly but significantly in the three months after that. If it had kept falling at even half of the previous rate, she should have been negative by now. Just got the results from the most recent three months, and there was no drop at all. This coincided with the three-week straw exposure and the resurgence of her symptoms. The day after I thoroughly cleaned the car, she only complained of a tummy ache once and didn't even cry, which was a huge improvement over the past weeks of fussing for hours every day. She mentioned it once more in the following few days, and that was it. 

 

I'd originally assumed that the return of my own diarrhea must be from something different. It started around the same time and was bad enough that we scheduled a colonoscopy. It had been improving slightly when I first started this thread, but then got even worse a few days after I cleaned out the car. Though I showered and changed clothes right after, I didn't wear a dust mask, and I spent a good two hours crawling through the car and cleaning every nook and cranny. Two days later, the diarrhea had increased to 10x per day. It has gradually improved since then, and thankfully my colonoscopy was normal. I haven't seen the actual biopsy report yet, but it sounds like they found nothing that would explain this episode, so it seems to be either a glutening or a random intestinal virus that just happened to strike at the same time and last six weeks. 

 

Of course, this could still be a coincidence of timing for both of us, or we could have gotten a contaminated batch of flour or something. But that seems even less likely than the straw, since all of our grain products are either certified or from dedicated facilities. I'm feeling pretty discouraged, especially for my daughter's sake. It's one thing to bring our own food to picnics and birthday parties, and to stay away from restaurants and take all sorts of precautions at school. That's time-consuming but has felt manageable and not too alienating for her. But it's quite another to think that we may also need to avoid strawberry picking, hay rides, and the dozens of fall festivals that are all around us. Many of our fall weekends used to revolve around such festivals, with kids running through mazes of straw bales, making scarecrows, etc. We happened not to go to these things last year because we were busy moving, and I don't recall any other contact with straw since her diagnosis, so straw wasn't even on my radar at all until this incident. I suppose I'll give it one more try (with a single short exposure) to see if she reacts again, but I have a sinking feeling that she will. 

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Thanks for the update.  It is consistent with my experience.

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And mine too.

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