Are oats gluten free or not?

Are oats gluten free or not?

I get asked all the time if, “are oats gluten free?”

It is a question that is guaranteed to pop up when I ask my clients to trial an elimination of gluten from their diet to address their presenting health concerns.There is a lot of confusion in the public about whether oats are gluten free or not.

The confusion may stem from some brand of oats being labelled as gluten-free.

Does this mean some oats are and others aren’t?

Technically oats are not gluten free.

Gluten is a collective term given to storage proteins in wheat, barley and rye. These storage proteins are appropriately termed ‘prolamins’ and oats have their own type of prolamin called ‘avenin’. The percentage of prolamin in oats is a lot less than that in wheat, barley and rye; about 10-15% compared to 80-85% in wheat.

Oats also suffer from the issue of gluten contamination that can occur when oats are being grown, harvested, processed and packaged alongside wheat, barley or rye.

In Europe and North America, oats can be labelled as gluten-free as long as they contain less than 20 parts per million (ppm).

However, Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) does not recognise this practice and does not permit oats grown or processed in Australia to be labelled as gluten-free.

So, what about pure oats? Is the avenin in oats an issue?

What does the research say?

Research does confirm that ‘pure oats’- free from contamination by wheat either from the fields or processing and packaging line- are safe for MOST people with coeliac disease; but NOT ALL.

Coeliac Australia does advise that coeliac patients consider including oats on the ‘foods to avoid’ list as they can be detrimental for some people with coeliac disease.

Damage can be silent so there may very well not be any clear adverse symptoms or even a spike in antibodies that drive the destruction of the gut lining. This can be put down to cross-reactivity, where one person’s immune system finds the avenin in oats to resemble the gluten in wheat, rye and barley.

What about those without coeliac disease?

Are oats gluten free enough?

This depends on the state of your child’s health. Oats are a nutrient-dense, calming food and make a wonderful option for kids’ breakfasts and snacks.

However, if your child is presenting with ongoing digestive, immune, mood and behaviour issues, they may be asked to trial an elimination diet and oats are often grouped with gluten-containing grains and added to the avoid list.

It is the small chance that oats alongside wheat, rye and barley may be contributing to the symptom picture that drives this decision.

Avoiding certain foods on an elimination diet is only short-term; typically 2-3 weeks.

The avoidance aims to achieve a level of reduction in symptoms so that when the foods are added back into the diet a clear indication of tolerance can be determined.

Want to know more?

If you suspect that your child may have a food intolerance/ sensitivity, why not book in for a free discovery call to discuss your options further.

If you are interested in helping your child’s gut health and wellbeing then The Good Gut System is the perfect solution. To find out more about food intolerances have a read of this post I wrote on undiagnosed food intolerances.

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