The Oat Conundrum: Are Oats Gluten-Free?

The topic of Oats and the gluten-free diet can be confusing. Here’s what you need to know; so here’s the big question: Are oats truly gluten-free? The Canadian Celiac Associations Professional Advisory Councils’ Position Statement on Consumption of Oats by Individuals with Celiac Disease is as follows:

“The safety of oats in individuals with celiac disease has been extensively investigated. Health Canada has reviewed the clinical evidence from numerous international studies and has concluded that the consumption of oats, uncontaminated with gluten from wheat, rye or barley, is safe for the vast majority of patients with celiac disease.”

The challenge with oats in gluten-free eating is contamination. Many commercial oats are processed in facilities that also process wheat, barley, and rye. The gluten in these ingredients can contaminate oats, and the nature of most gluten intolerances is that even a trace amount of gluten can cause severe discomfort.

According to the National Institute of Health, “88% of commercial oats in Canada are contaminated with gluten-containing grains. With cross-contamination in the eld, in the transport of the grain, in the storage of the grain, and in the milling and packaging facilities.”

Fortunately, in Canada, these specially-produced pure, uncontaminated oats have been available in the marketplace for many years. These oats are grown on dedicated fields and are harvested, stored, transported, and processed in dedicated gluten-free facilities. In addition, they are accurately tested for their gluten content to be under 20 ppm. However, some individuals with a gluten intolerance may still find themselves sensitive to even pure oats.

Also, according to the Canadian Celiac Associations Professional Advisory Council, the fibre content of an oat-containing diet is often higher than the typical gluten-free diet. When adding oats to the diet, the individual should be stabilized on the gluten-free diet, and their celiac antibody levels should have normalized. This process may take 6−18 months, although there is considerable variation among individuals. As some experience a change in stool pattern or mild gastrointestinal symptoms, including abdominal bloating and gas, it’s advised to start with a small amount of oats per day [adults 25−70 grams (1/4−3/4 cup dry rolled oats) and children 10−25 grams (1/8−1/4 cup)] and gradually increase as tolerated.

There are case reports of individuals with celiac disease relapsing from the consumption of pure, uncontaminated oats, so it’s important to be aware of this possibility. If symptoms occur, it may be advisable to discontinue consuming oats until you’ve had a chance to talk to your health care provider.

Another excellent source of information on this topic is the Canadian Celiac Association; they have a helpful outline on their website which describes in detail their Association’s Professional Advisory Council position statement on consumption of oats by individuals with celiac disease. To learn more about this, and other important matters related to celiac disease, please visit them at www.Celiac.ca.