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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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    i have dermatitis herpetiformis too. Does anyone out there know of any hair products that are gluten and wheat free?

    @Marylou hubbard. I don't know if have heard of Arbonne but it is a fabulous company that makes over 400 gluten-free products from shampoo/conditioner, protein powder and skin care products! We are in the process of getting our almost 4 year old tested for celiac disease and swear by these products! I hope this helps.

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    This article was originally published in 1996. The responses came 12-16 years later. I would encourage all folks new to a celiac disease diagnosis, or anyone trying to be informed, to research this topic beyond this article.

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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.

    I just recently found out I have a wheat allergy. This info makes sense to me. I used to think that my low carb diet cured my dandruff until I changed shampoo and was confused. I finally read the ingredients and found out there were wheat products in it. My shampoo brought back my dandruff. Now I have to change back. I am glad I realized that topical exposure to gluten also produces an allergic reaction. Duh! Your skin is a large, absorbent organ - you do not necessarily have to have a 'gut' reaction to ingested wheat to trigger allergies.

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    i have dermatitis herpetiformis too. Does anyone out there know of any hair products that are gluten and wheat free?

    Alterna is gluten free and available in salons. While it does have fragrance (which can include hidden gluten), which I try to stay away from and I prefer to use something more "natural" I get contact dermitis that may or may not be from gluten so I stick with what works for me.

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    Not all Arbonne items are wheat free. They claim they use a process to remove the gluten but I now plan to avoid certain items like a certain shampoo with a great scent but wheat protein in it. So read the ingredients carefully before buying Arbonne.

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    I would like to express my concern that I have received many e-mail responses from companies telling me that there is 'no evidence' that gluten is absorbed through the skin. I can tell you it IS absorbed through the skin. Perhaps I am sensitive, but I have clear distinct gluten response including vasovagal response, abdominal cramping itching, insomnia, and severe edema, a response that took much research on my own part to relate to certain mascara, most self-tanners, and some shampoos. Some of the manufacturers such as Pureology have admitted gluten in some of their hair care products, which then makes it easy to avoid. But, it is quite annoying to be told that there is no such thing.... I hope there is future advanced cooperation by some of these manufacturers to make consumers aware so that they can avoid any unwanted response. It truly is not fun to find out the hard way...

    Education is the tool to greater health for all of us....

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    I am a celiac, when I was first diagnosed 5 years ago I went through a stage where I didn't use gluten products around me at all. Now that I'm more comfortable with what is fact--I even use Aveno as a skin cream, I don't even look at ingredients anymore unless I eat them. I have to say also that I am very very sensitive to gluten. This place was my Bible for many years I trust what they post! I will continue to trust what they post. I don't stress over my celiac disease anymore, time and knowledge has lightening my load. I also just had a check up biopsy done and my villi are perfect! Thank you Celiac.com for helping my stay informed all these years.

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    I would like to express my concern that I have received many e-mail responses from companies telling me that there is 'no evidence' that gluten is absorbed through the skin. I can tell you it IS absorbed through the skin. Perhaps I am sensitive, but I have clear distinct gluten response including vasovagal response, abdominal cramping itching, insomnia, and severe edema, a response that took much research on my own part to relate to certain mascara, most self-tanners, and some shampoos. Some of the manufacturers such as Pureology have admitted gluten in some of their hair care products, which then makes it easy to avoid. But, it is quite annoying to be told that there is no such thing.... I hope there is future advanced cooperation by some of these manufacturers to make consumers aware so that they can avoid any unwanted response. It truly is not fun to find out the hard way...

    Education is the tool to greater health for all of us....

    Your allergic to something else in the products you are using. Mayne it's time to research other allergens?

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    I would like to express my concern that I have received many e-mail responses from companies telling me that there is 'no evidence' that gluten is absorbed through the skin. I can tell you it IS absorbed through the skin. Perhaps I am sensitive, but I have clear distinct gluten response including vasovagal response, abdominal cramping itching, insomnia, and severe edema, a response that took much research on my own part to relate to certain mascara, most self-tanners, and some shampoos. Some of the manufacturers such as Pureology have admitted gluten in some of their hair care products, which then makes it easy to avoid. But, it is quite annoying to be told that there is no such thing.... I hope there is future advanced cooperation by some of these manufacturers to make consumers aware so that they can avoid any unwanted response. It truly is not fun to find out the hard way...

    Education is the tool to greater health for all of us....

    Irregardless of what they think, we have a right to choose what ingredients we choose to purchase and the only way we can do that is if they disclose. I agree with you. Interestingly I knew a bartender who had terrible problems because he came in constant contact with beer which contains gluten. I myself cannot drink from glasses in bars even though I order soda because they are dipped in the same solution as the beer glasses.

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    Maybe it's not common but we are out there. I had to stop cooking separate wheat pasta for the kids because if I breathed the steam or put my arm through it I would swell up like a balloon and where it touched my skin it created sores.

    I also live where wheat and barley is grown every harvest I get sick if I leave the house, I have helps filters on my heat and cool unit . It triggers my Crohn's, my asthma comes back, I swell and get sicker and sicker until the rains come after harvest. It takes longer and longer to recover each year. I now leave the area for 2 to 3 months to stay well.

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  • About Me

    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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