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Should You Eat Oats If You Have Problems With Gluten?

Dr. Richard Hagmeyer,DC -Chicago-IL, explains why Oats are a dangerous food if you have gluten sensitivity or Celiac disease.

The package of oatmeal claims to be gluten free.” So It must free of gluten. Right? That all depends on how we “define” gluten. New research is showing that this is a bigger problem than what was once thought.

Every day it seems like I talk with someone from some part of the world, that has just started a gluten free diet- one that avoids wheat, barley, rye.

Yet every day, many of these individuals state that they feel just as bad or that they have only improved marginally after a year or so, of being on a gluten free.

Many continue to suffer with bloating, brain fog, depression, anxiety, foot peripheral neuropathy, Headaches, joint inflammation and more.

In this article, I want to explain one of the most common breakfast foods consumed by millions of gluten sensitive individuals who follow a traditional “gluten free” diet.

Many people who have celiac disease or “non celiac” gluten sensitivity continue to eat oats because information they either find on the internet, information they hear from people in health foods stores or information from their GI doctors.

After all take a look at the above image and you can see why many people who are trying to avoid eating gluten are so confused- Whole grain Rolled Oats “Gluten Free”

See Video here titled “Misconceptions about a gluten free diet”

Many people will argue that as long as oats are manufactured in a  “dedicated gluten free facility”, that oats are safe and can be eaten. People will argue that it is the “cross contamination” of oats with wheat  that is the problem, Others will also argue, that they feel fine when they eat Oats-

So, let me address some of these common arguments and you can decide after reading this article if you want to continue eating oats regardless of whether they say Gluten free or not.

You can argue any of these points to justify the consumption of your morning bowl of oatmeal, But, let’s understand the bigger picture and look at what some of the research is showing when we start digging just a little deeper.

Ultimately, you will need to determine to what degree you are willing to give up ALL gluten, not just wheat gluten.

Research Does Not Give Oats the Green Light.

Is the food industry and the doctors and food scientists who work for the food industry trying to deceive you? I don’t know? Yes…..  No…… Maybe? after all, the gluten free industry has become a multi-million dollar a year industry.

What I do know is that the food labeling laws don’t include oatmeal because they state that there is not a “firm scientific consensus” that Oats can cause problems. I and many others experts feel that for celiac disease sufferers and Non celiac Gluten sensitive individuals, it is only a matter of time before we can clearly see the evidence against eating Oats and all grains for that matter.

Many of these foods scientists claim that celiac patients react to oats only because they are cross contaminated with wheat. But other studies that have looked at non cross contaminated oats, show that they do cause inflammation and problems.

The bigger problem here is that most doctors and much of the gluten free food industry completely ignores the research on this topic. For a variety of reasons they continue to claim that oats are a safe substitute food.  But before you make a decision to include oat cereal products into your diet, consider the research studies below:

Oats do not contain “wheat” gluten, but Oats do contain a gluten containing protein known as “Avenin.” this is the protein component of oats.

In fact, some varieties of Oats contain as much as 16 percent of this protein and for certain individuals, this can be the difference between healing and not healing. Let me be very clear, if you are eating oats, and you feel fine after you have eaten them, this is not necessarily a green light to continue eating them. Remember, damage can be occurring within your body without immediate symptoms.

So, while Oats do contain gluten (12-16%) they contain a much lower percentage of gluten compared to Corn (Zein 55%), Rye (Secalinin 30-50%), Barley (Hordein 45%-62%), Millet (Panicin 40%).  For frame of reference, “Wheat” gluten approximates 69% of its prolamine protein composition.

As you can see, this is part of the reason why some people feel so much better by giving up wheat gluten, but can still suffer with unresolved symptoms of brain fog, hormone imbalances, thyroid problems, infertility, cardiovascular problems, Migraines, Dizziness, Balance disorders, bloating, gas, constipation.

What Does The Research Say About Gluten and Oats

There have been a number of research studies performed to evaluate the safety of oat consumption.  Many of them report that components in oat proteins cause inflammation and in subgroups of celiac disease patients, elicit damage in patients with celiac disease as well as non celiac gluten sensitivity.

Most recently, a study published in the European Journal of Nutrition found that some forms of oat protein triggered and antibody reaction.

Another study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology found two varieties of oat proteins were responsible for increased intraepithelial T-cell density and IFN-γ production.

(both of these Intraepthelial T-cells and Interferon Gamma) are signs of increased inflammation).  Unchecked, this inflammation has the ability to damage tissue and drive an autoimmune response.

The Bottom line here is that we don’t really know enough about Oats and other grains to make the statement that they are safe.

Avenin- the protein found in oats, is just one protein of many found in oats. In years to come, and as testing improves, we may find many other proteins found in oats to be damaging as well.


  1. Silano M, et al.  Diversity of oat varieties in eliciting the early      inflammatory events in celiac disease.       Eur J Nutr
  2. Maglio M, Mazzarella G, Barone MV, et al.  Immunogenicity of two oat varieties, in relation to their safety for celiac patients.Scand      J Gastroenterol. 2011 Oct;46(10):1194-205.
  3. Real A, Comino I, de Lorenzo L, et al.  Molecular      and immunological characterization of      gluten proteins isolated from oat cultivars that differ in toxicity for      celiac disease.  PLoS One. 2012;7(12).
  4. Fric P, Gabrovska D, Nevoral J. Celiac disease, gluten-free      diet, and oatsNutr Rev. 2011      Feb;69(2):107-15.
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