How Much Gluten is Too Much Gluten?

Last week I listened to a radio show (on my IPod-so a replay of said show-episode 504 of Superhuman Radio) where they were discussing organophosphates.

The use of organophosphates is way beyond the scope of this article, but basically some  insecticides fall under this category.  Use must fall under what is considered a “safe” level of exposure with residuals on food.

The guest on the radio show contended that while this may be “safe” for an isolated incident, what about when we repeatedly ingest the “safe” level?  What happens then?  Does it build up to “unsafe” levels in our bodies?

My brain started spinning like a hamster on a wheel, as I thought…

Does this happen with gluten?

Is gluten exposure additive?

Don't touch that! (Photo credit Dimitri_C)

The proposed labeling for “gluten-free” by the FDA is if a food meets the following conditions, and DOES NOT INCLUDE:

  • An ingredient that is a prohibited grain
  • An ingredient that is derived from a prohibited grain and that has not been processed to remove gluten
  • An ingredient that is derived from a prohibited grain and that has been processed to remove gluten, if the use of that ingredient results in the presence of 20 parts per million (ppm) or more gluten in the food or
  • 20 ppm or more gluten

Food can be labeled gluten free and still contain some gluten.

I knew that, probably we all knew that.  I never thought about it potentially building up in my system though.  It makes sense that it could cause additional damage to the intestine.  What happens  if a large amount of food which has been processed to be gluten free (but contains 20 ppm of gluten) is consumed?  Perhaps one item containing 20 ppm is “safe,” but if a person were to have 5-6 items through the course of a day, now that’s potentially 120 ppm in a day.  How does that affect us?  We don’t know.

We live in an imperfect world.

Risks are taken every day.  I could get hit by the proverbial bus tomorrow.  Food manufacturers are doing their best to minimize gluten exposure to celiacs.  (We hope.)  I minimize my risk by choosing primarily naturally gluten free foods.  Barring cross contamination, there is 0 ppm of gluten in a steak, sweet potato and broccoli.  (It’s what’s for dinner!)

This is not to scare you.

Just be aware, think it over, and make an informed decision on what you put in your body.  Food is your fuel. Don’t kill your engine with less than optimal fuel.

What do you think on the labeling guidelines?

Filed Under: celiac diseasenutrition


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  1. Love your blog! Such great info!

  2. Jayne Aston says:

    This is a really cool blog!
    I am hypersensitive and any amount of gluten will, at the very least, cause DH on the back of my head.
    I make all of my own foods from scratch, because I am so afraid of being glutened.
    Thank you for writing this post!
    Aunt Jayne

  3. Erin says:

    Thank you Lauren!

  4. Erin says:

    Thanks Jayne!
    I tend to choose naturally gluten free foods anyway for the nutrition and taste, but this really hits the importance of preparing your own for safety as well.
    Glad you liked it!

  5. Sarah says:

    Thank you for this! I was just talking to my husband about this yesterday, I think its true, I think the little gluten that we do not expect to be there or even do know is there add up. I am not a Dx Celiac but I stopped gluten and dairy back in Nov 09. So I have not be diligent about every little thing but avoiding the obvious and I have been feeling fatigued, heart burn, headaches and over all blah creeping back in.

  6. Erin says:

    Hi Sarah!
    It’s interesting to see how our bodies react-being aware is the first step to being able to improve and change. I think being a bit more careful with your intake will help. Not being diagnosed celiac certainly does not mean you are not gluten intolerant or simply haven’t been diagnosed, as you’ve found!

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