Celiac disease and gluten intolerance can be difficult to manage because it involves navigating through a maze of labels and packages surrounding a product (food) that we consume throughout the day. This isn’t a simple task!
Think about it. Someone who is allergic to a bee sting knows an encounter with a bee is dangerous. Simple enough, right?
However, someone who cannot digest gluten properly has to read through labels and look for hidden sources of gluten. It’s not as simple as saying “I can’t eat bread” and therefore avoiding a single food. Because guess what, that bottle of salad dressing may have gluten. So might that hot dog. Or any number of processed and packaged foods.
So, why not simply avoid anything packaged and stick as close to the natural source as possible. In other words, eat whole foods that have not been processed and packaged.
This is great advice…on the surface. But then you run across reports and warnings which suggest the meat from animals fed a diet containing gluten, may contain gluten by association. After all – you are what you eat; and what you eat is a product of what it eats.
It’s a crazy cycle!
So, can the grain cows eat end up in the steak that’s on your plate?
While some may argue meat from grain-fed animals does indeed contain gluten, there is no clear scientific evidence to validate this claim. Science supports the idea that grains fed to animals are broken down into amino acids; therefore do not transfer directly as gluten into the protein fibers of the meat.
But why, then, do some people report a reaction after consuming meat?
Although meat, as Mother Nature intended, should be gluten free, the road it takes from field to table may expose it to gluten contamination:
- Did it come into contact with gluten-containing foods or equipment?
- Did you add some gluten containing spices or marinades?
- Has it been processed and packaged with added ingredients (like breading, fillers, and flavorings) on equipment that also processes gluten-containing foods?
If you have any concerns about fresh meats you would like to eat, ask the butcher. They may be able to answer your questions and put your mind at ease
If you have questions about whether processed meats contain gluten, your first instinct should be they do! And then, proceed with caution as you investigate the details.
The most common source of gluten in processed meat is through the use of products such as binders or fillers. You may find this in ground and canned meats. Also, if a piece of meat has been seasoned, or marinated, there is a strong likelihood those seasoning contained gluten and by extension, so does the meat. To be exactly sure what a piece of meat contains ask the butcher, because it’s not always obvious if an ingredient is gluten free.
The second most common source of gluten in meat is contamination. If meat is processed in a factory that also processes gluten, there is a very good chance the meat may become contaminated.
Gluten allergies are very similar to nut allergies. Depending on your level of intolerance, it may only take exposure to a very small amount to trigger a reaction. That is why many products not made with gluten have that familiar warning such as “ made in a facility that processes gluten”
So you see, fresh is still best and I would argue that’s true for the gluten-free and gluten-full among us. The more mindful we are about what goes into our food and into our bodies, the better chance we have to maintain long term, quality health.