Monday, 25 July 2011

Should I eat oats?

To eat oats or not to eat oats? This is certainly a sticky and controversial area within the Coeliac community, from dieticians, doctors and coeliacs themselves.

When I first visited the dietician and received a guide on coeliac disease and the gluten free diet, the dietician explained what I couldn't eat, which was wheat, rye and barley. However, she did scribble out the last word, which was oats. This was great news, I loved oats and to continue eating them was a treat! However, as many coeliacs know the only oats you can eat (if at all) are the oats that are not cross-contaminated in the milling process with avenin, which is very similar to gluten, and are 'pure' or uncontaminated (always check the label).  Although some coeliacs are so sensitive that even gluten free or 'pure' oats are not suitable. Before I tried them I wanted to make sure my body was healing properly and my tTg (gluten anti-bodies) was on its way down, so I waited a year after being diagnosed before trying, under the supervision of my dietician. This ensured I was entirely gluten free for a prolonged period and if I did have any reaction to oats, it would be obvious.  

Oats are a great source of soluble fibre (for healthy bowel function), it lowers bad cholesterol, is high in protein, regulates blood-sugar levels, reduces high blood pressure and is a great source of B-vitamins.  Is there a down side? Yes. Although oats are tasty, gluten free oats are très expensive! Not to mention the possibility of having a reaction to them. So....should you eat them? Before you do, make sure to consult your dietician/doctor first and if you get the go ahead consider trying them. I'm due for my yearly blood test and although I've had no obvious reaction to GF oats, is it still damaging my gut? It's very hard to tell, besides having another gastroscopy (no thanks!) or blood work done. I am a little concerned, but if my tTg has increased then it will be a sure sign that oats are not for me, in which case I'll be very sad and miss them a lot. 

Pure Oats?
In late September 2011 I bought and consumed practically a whole bag of pure oats, which I later found out were contaminated with low levels of gluten. I had been eating the oats for almost a week and was suffering with terrible stomach pains but was confused as to what was causing it. I stick to a very strict gluten free diet and was very concerned why I was feeling this way. It was not until I read a post on one of the coeliac groups on Facebook that I heard an announcement that some pure oats had been contaminated. I later received a letter from Sainsburys saying:
"We understand from our records that you recently bought our Sainsbury's Freeform Pure Oats 450g. The safety of our customers is extremely important to us. We have identified that a limited number of packets of this product may contain low levels of gluten which has not been declared on the packaging....If you have an allergy or intolerance to wheat or gluten, please do not consume this product and take it back to your local Sainsbury's store for a full refund.....Please accept our apologies for the inconvenience caused".
It turns out that the recall was not just from Sainsburys, 5 different companies had to recall their oats and oats muesli, which leads me to the conclusion they all have the same supplier. Oats are very good for you and should be enjoyed as part of a healthy balanced diet, but when you're a coeliac and putting your trust in supermarkets and gluten free products not to make you ill and they do it knocks your confidence. I will try pure oats again, but it has put me off for a little while.
As a coeliac and a consumer I expect foods that are labelled gluten free to first and foremost  be gluten free, also tested thoroughly for safe consumption and all gluten free products to be baked/cooked/manufactured in a safe gluten free area to eliminate cross contamination. 

1 comment:

  1. It's a tricky one, isn't it. I think you've taken sensible precautions and are doing everything by the book - which is wise. It's a shame if you can't eat oats because, of course, they're a magnificent food - very healthy.

    Incidentally, avenin is the protein found naturally in all oats, which most coeliacs seem to be able to tolerate, in at least modest amounts. The cross-contamination that makes them potentially harmful comes from wheat flour (gliadin).

    Hope things work out.