A Note On Oats

When I was first diagnosed as having Celiac Sprue well over a decade ago, oats were on the “no-no” list of grains.  I was able to say the string of grains that were off limits as fast as I could say the old double dutch McDonald’s commercial: “big mac, fillet of fish, quarter pounder, french fries, ….”There’s a flash from the past! My point being, when asked about Celiac or gluten, an intergral part of my answer was, “no wheat, oats, barley, or rye”.  And, at the time, with less information available to the public and most certainly fewer safe products in stores, that gluten mantra was correct.  However, these days, gluten free options are available from specialty manufacturers, big brand names, and many restaurants across the country.  Over time, the medical and dietary profession along with gluten free eaters like me, have discovered that oats are not really the culprit.  The problem lies with how they are produced, harvested, manufactured, and stored. Oats are often grown in tandem with wheat or in a crop rotation cycle (one crop is wheat and one is oats – then the following season they swap).  The end product is then processed on and stored in equipment that also processes wheat or other gluten containing grains.  While these practices are great for the soil, the farmer, and the factory, when the oats are harvested and processed it is impossible to keep wheat or other gluten containing grains from contacting the oats.  Therefore, when harvested in the field and then processed in the factory on the same line as gluten containing grains,  cross contamination happens – hence the stomach aches. Oats by themselves (uncontaminated) do not contain the same gluten protein to which Celiacs react so violently. This does not however mean that oats are “hypoallergenic” in that, some people react to the protein in oats.  While this is a small percentage, it’s worth noting. With oats labeled “gluten free” these crops are grown in a dedicated field – meaning only oats – where no cross contamination by accidentally including a gluten grain during harvest can happen – and on dedicated equipment.  As a super sensitive Celiac on a strict gluten free diet, I am fortunate to have had no problems whatsoever with certified gluten free oats and do incorporate them regularly into my diet.  Should you be new to oats, make sure to read the package ensuring you are buying only a certified gluten free product and begin with a small portion, monitoring your body’s response, and increasing the portion size over time.  And, of course it’s always a good idea to talk it over with your doctor, nutritionist, or dietitian. Here’s hoping you have the same success with this versatile grain as I have had. Have more questions?  Here is one link to Bob’s Red Mill to get you started on your own investigation:  http://www.glutenfreeoats.com

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