Gluten-Free Oats

NCA suggests that you read the following information and consult with your medical team before making an educated decision about the inclusion of gluten-free (GF) oats in your diet. Sound information about the safety of GF oats is greatly in flux at this time.

Most commercial sources of common oats have had cross-contact with gluten, rendering them unsafe for consumption on a GF diet. Some manufacturers do not adequately test oats for gluten, or use methods to sort and test their products that are inadequate. Recently, concerns have arisen around the level of gluten in oats that have been produced using a purity protocol (dedicated GF oats, field, truck, facility, and processing) that were previously thought to be safe.

Oats are a nutritious, naturally gluten-free grain that offer many health benefits. However, longstanding controversy exists surrounding their safety and use in the gluten-free diet. Patients who have added oats may complain of symptoms related to several factors, including an intolerance to the increase in fiber, food intolerances to the fermentable carbohydrates (FODMAPs) that are often found in products containing oats (such as energy bars or baked goods), or contamination with gluten. Additionally, while there is a group of individuals who react to the protein avenin present in oats, it represents a very small portion of individuals with celiac disease. Currently, for individuals with celiac disease, there is no consensus on the standard recommendation for the type or portion of gluten-free oats, and when, or if, to introduce them at all to their gluten-free diet.

Given the current (as of May 2023) and complicated circumstances regarding gluten-free oat processing and the ever-changing oat supply chain, it is important to understand the source of the gluten-free labeled oats prior to consumption. At this time, BIDMC Celiac Center clinicians cannot offer a standard recommendation for any particular brand of gluten-free oats, regardless of its purity protocol or mechanically/optically sorted status, or its certification status.

If a patient chooses to include labeled gluten-free oats in the diet, our recommendations are individualized to that patient based on symptoms, celiac antibodies, pre-existing health conditions, and current diet and preferences. Factors and recommendations also include frequency and amount of gluten-free oats eaten, including single ingredient oat products versus multiple ingredient oat products.

As always, we recommend that patients diversify gluten-free grains in the diet by including other healthy, high-fiber labeled gluten-free grains, such as buckwheat, millet, amaranth, teff, quinoa, and sorghum.

If you are interested in including gluten-free oats in your diet, speak to your celiac specialist dietitian or gastroenterologist about your individual health circumstances and follow up regularly.

The Celiac Center at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, May 2023
To read more on one perspective regarding gluten-free oats and the current supply concerns, please visit: https://www.glutenfreewatchdog.org/news/more-on-oats-from-gluten-free-watchdog-retrospective-database-analysis-2011-2023/

Reference: https://www.bidmc.org/-/media/files/beth-israel-org/centers-and-departments/digestive-disease-center/celiac-center/celiac-center-healthy-gut-news-spring-2023.pdf