A man with celiac disease is suing the FDA, demanding they take action on the undisclosed use of wheat in an estimated 150 different prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) medications.
Although about 1 percent of the population suffers from celiac disease, vastly more have gluten sensitivity and must also abstain from eating wheat to avoid a variety of health conditions that typically involve inflammation, such as joint pain, brain-based disorders, skin problems, gut problems, and more.
The man sued the FDA after they failed to respond to a petition he filed after developing gluten reactions to a generic drug he had been taking.
Manufacturers do not disclose the use of wheat in their prescription and OTC drugs, making it a crapshoot for those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity who must take them. The man filing the lawsuit had to call the manufacturer to inquire about the use of gluten in that specific batch of drugs. (Filler ingredients are changed regularly.)
Although it’s unclear how many drugs contain gluten — a serious problem when it’s that difficult to ascertain — a university pharmacist has so far catalogued 150 drugs that don’t contain gluten Unfortunately, however, even these drugs are questionable as there is no oversight regarding cross-contamination with gluten. In other words, if the drugs are made on equipment or in an area contaminated with gluten, then they are no longer gluten-free. Many drugs also contain corn potato, or soy, ingredients that may cross-react with gluten, causing symptoms.
It’s good to know which drugs contain gluten, especially since some autoimmune diseases are linked in the science with gluten. If you take a medication regularly to help manage your autoimmune condition (such as insulin), it’s worth calling the manufacturer to ensure it is gluten-free. Gluten is linked to 55 diseases so far, the majority of them autoimmune and many of them neurological.
Gluten also in many household products
Medications aren’t the only thing not required to list gluten as an ingredient. Some body products and household items also contain hidden gluten.
Manufacturers often use wheat in fillers, lubricants or absorbents in various body products. While gluten is not absorbed through the skin, it is possible to transfer traces from your hands or face to your mouth, where it can be swallowed and cause symptoms.
Examples of products that may contain hidden gluten include cosmetics and lip balm; lotions and sunscreens; stickers, stamps, and envelope glue; toothpaste; soaps; play dough; pet food; and laundry detergent.
How to protect yourself from hidden gluten
Unfortunately, your doctor or pharmacist may not know whether a drug or product contains gluten. It may be up to you to hunt down which are safe. The list of gluten-free drugs compiled by the university pharmacist is helpful.
Fortunately, when it comes to body and household products, many people have already done the research and reported their results online Finding out whether a product is safe may be just a click away so you don’t have to go through the hassle of tracking down the right person in the company.
In response to consumer demand, an increasing number of companies are making and marketing gluten-free body products so just a quick glance at the label can tell you if it’s safe.
Also, for parents of children with a gluten-sensitivity, finding safe play dough can be a hassle; the name-brand stuff is wheat-based and we know it’s difficult for kids to keep their hands out of their mouths. Fortunately, some gluten-free brands of play dough are now available online, as well as plenty of very easy recipes to make your own.
Although it takes a little bit of extra effort to use medications and other products that are gluten-free, it’s worth the peace of mind to avoid provoking inflammatory reactions and symptoms.