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  • Scott Adams
    Scott Adams

    Can products which contain gluten but only touch the skin affect celiacs?*

    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

    Very few celiacs are likely to have any reaction to topical gluten contact. In order for a gut reaction to occur, it is likely that direct contact with the gut lumen is required. Many people with celiac disease have everyday contact with gluten (for instance, bakers with celiac disease who have contact everyday with wheat flour), and do not have any reaction to it. However, there are, on rare occasion, people who have had an anaphylactoid response to gluten, and these people should avoid gluten in all forms. Also, topical gluten breathed into the upper airways may cause symptoms of allergic rhetinitis in rare instances. If there is a simple alternative to a shampoo, cosmetic, etc., you may want to use the non gluten containing product.


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    Yes, I have had some experiences with shampoos that had wheat in them, it caused a lot of uncontrollable itching. I recently was trying a face cream with collagen, and was getting a rash that was unexplained, until I found that collagen comes from wheat. It took quite a while for the rash to go away after I discontinued use. I had to use vitamin E to get rid of it. Now that is all I use and it works nice.

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    I see no research sited that supports the premise that topical gluten has no adverse effect on celiacs. Until I see research that proves topical gluten is safe for celiacs, I will continue to recommend that celiacs avoid gluten-containing personal products. Additionally, I have heard anecdotal stories similar to Judy's that would concern me. Certainly it is recommended that those with dermatitis herpetiformis avoid topical gluten!

     

    When we work so hard to avoid ingesting gluten, does it make any sense to use a shampoo or hand cream with wheat protein? I suppose you never get shampoo or your hair in your mouth or you never lick your fingers. I guess you would have to be very careful to avoid accidental ingestion.

     

    Also, I am shocked to see the inference that baking with gluten products has no effect on celiacs. Even if skin contact has no effect, the possibility of breathing in gluten through the mouth while talking and thus ingesting it accidentally is enough to suggest that all celiacs avoid baking with gluten! In fact, I know one celiac baker who was very sick until he quit his job. Perhaps all the bakers mentioned in the article are not as sensitive, but I hope they have their antibodies checked regularly.

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    I have had many reactions to products containing gluten as well. I'm not convinced that this stuff doesn't affect the skin. I used to get dermatitis herpetiformis every time I used lotion or gel until I realized that some had hydrolized wheat protein in them. Same with my shampoo. As soon as I changed to Dove, the dandruff and skin problems totally ceased.

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    I was diagnosed over the summer and I have steadily gotten more and more sensitive. At first I didn't worry about hair and skin products with gluten, but now I have realized that they do affect me. I think this is because it's impossible to avoid getting some products into contact with my mouth. For instance, I had a hair product that I used one day. I washed my hands like I usually did after using it, but later on I fluffed my hair with my hands. Then I went and ate a tangerine, putting my hands all over it, not really thinking. An hour later, I was throwing up. I checked the label and wheat protein was a main ingredient. I also used to get rashes while using some lotions and facial moisturizers, surprise surprise, they have hydrolyzed wheat protein and barley extract. For me, it's not worth it! I could never imagine the horror of having to breathe in flour all day.

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    Many manufacturers of hair and skin products, do not list on their labels ALL the ingredients, so it behooves us the public to call them and esquire. I don't know what ingredient has caused some rashes on my skin but now that I have been diagnosed I'm more likely to esquire.

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    I have such trouble when hydrolyzed wheat protein touches my scalp. It starts out as small pimples and becomes small open sores by the end of the day. I had switched my shampoo and conditioner and thought I was all set until I used hairspray (thinking there is no way gluten would be in hairspray)...thought I was going crazy until I read the label.

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    I had been using volume shampoo's without realizing they contained hydrolyzed wheat protein. Every time I used these shampoos my hair fell out in mass amounts. I literally have lost half my hair in the past two years. After being diagnosed with celiac disease, I checked my shampoo and hair product ingredients. Bingo! hydrolyzed wheat protein. Since I no longer use hair products with this ingredient, I no longer lose hair.

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    Guest debra higgins

    Posted

    I too have celic and have had reactions to of all things, bath tissue. I am very careful with what I purchase making sure I call or email the company for a list of ingredients.

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    Guest Roland Maduro

    Posted

    I wonder everyday about the cross-contamination of wheat. I suspected touching bread was making me sick, but then I realized soap was making me itch.

     

    Thanks for the information.

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    Celiac.com's Founder and CEO, Scott was diagnosed with celiac disease  in 1994, and, due to the nearly total lack of information available at that time, was forced to become an expert on the disease in order to recover. Scott launched the site that later became Celiac.com in 1995 "To help as many people as possible with celiac disease get diagnosed so they can begin to live happy, healthy gluten-free lives."  In 1998 he founded The Gluten-Free Mall which he sold in 2014. He is co-author of the book Cereal Killers, and founder and publisher of Journal of Gluten Sensitivity.

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