Oats and Gluten-Intolerance: It’s Complicated

by Jeanne on December 5, 2011

Sigh.  You know when you really want a relationship to work and you spend so much time trying to get it to work?  And then you finally realize, “he’s just not that into you”?  That’s me and Oats.  I cannot tell you how much I wanted Oats to like me.  Truly.  It’s been years since I’ve been truly wooing Oats and to no avail.  It’s a bummer.  I hung out with Oats as a kid (In his guise of Instant Oats packets), I sometimes hung out with Oats as a non-gluten-free adult, and I’ve tried to hang out with gluten-free Oats as a diagnosed gluten-free adult.

And you know what?  Oats never worked out for me.  It’s been such a long and hard road for me and Oats.  Oats is his own man.  He likes who he likes.  And I jealously watch as he gets along with others of my type (gluten-free folks), and I get sad.  We talk, we argue, we make up, we try.  But no matter what, we don’t work together.  It’s not either of our faults.  Oats is just being himself.  I am just being myself.  And, as it turns out, we just don’t work together, Oats and I.

Oats hangs out with some of my other gluten-free friends.  They say he works really well in their recipes.  I tried so hard to get him to work for MY recipes.  But, it wasn’t meant to be.  We don’t work together.  I am anguished.  Oats still gets invited to gluten-free parties.  We meet at some of these.  We say an awkward, “hi,” and leave it at that.  Friends are confused.  “I thought you guys liked each other?” they say.  I say, “it’s awkward.”  I tell them, “he and I, well, we just can’t be together.  It’s complicated.”  My friends don’t understand.  So many of my gluten-free friends like Oats.  Why can’t I just like Oats?  Why am I being so difficult?

If you are gluten-intolerant, oats may be bad for you, too.  If you sometimes eat gluten-free oats and you feel bad, and you wonder, “hm, what did I eat that made me feel bad?” it could be oats.  It turns out that even though oats (the gluten-free ones) don’t have gluten, they do have proteins that might behave the same way as gluten on the body of sensitive individuals.  I spent so much time (years) trying to eat oats, but they always made me sick–and I never understood what was going on.  Then I read this article and ones like it, and it all made sense.  Read it for yourself and see if it might be you.

It turns out that folks who are sensitive like I am to the prolamine gliadin, which is found in wheat gluten, are also often senstitive to the prolamine in oats called avenin.  As it turns out, just as there is gluten-sensitive enteropathy (celiac disease), there is also avenin-sensitive enteropathy, which is a sensitivity to the gluten-like substance in oats.  Sigh.  What this means is that many of us gluten-intolerant folks are actually intolerant to oats themselves, not to them being cross-contaminated with wheat.  This is an area that hasn’t really been studied all that much.  But, the toxicity of oats for gluten intolerant individuals is recognized by certain countries, including Australia.

Now, I’m not a medical doctor.  And you shouldn’t listen to me without listening to your own body and speaking with your doctor.  But, it’s food for thought for those of us who are gluten-intolerant.



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