Are Oats Gluten Free?

In answering are oats gluten free? We first need to understand what is gluten free? 

When people talk about following a gluten-free diet, they are talking specifically about following a diet free from the gluten that is contained in three types of grain - wheat, barley and rye. 

There are other types of gluten, such as oat gluten and rice gluten but it is wheat gluten, barley gluten and rye gluten that cause problems for people who are allergic/intolerant to gluten or have celiac disease.

In theory, oats should be fine if you are following a gluten-free diet.  However it is a bit more complicated than that, for two main reasons. 

1. Hidden Gluten

The way oats are grown and processed means they can contain hidden gluten through cross contamination.  Oats are often grown and harvested near wheat and milled in facilities that also mill wheat and other grains.  This can lead to the oats being contaminated with small traces of the harmful glutens. 

There is no way of telling if oats have been contaminated by either look or taste.  Only detailed analysis by a food laboratory can detect the harmful gluten.

Tips for dealing with the problem

Look out for oats that say that they are gluten free.  In order to be guaranteed gluten free the oats will have been grown away from wheat, barley and rye and will be milled and processed in facilities that avoid the risk of cross contamination. 

There are increasing numbers of suppliers of such oats so it is becoming easier to find these.  Supermarkets and health food stores are the best sources.

Since “normal” oats may or may not be cross contaminated with harmful gluten, you may find you can eat a product one time with no reaction and then another time you will have a reaction, so do beware. 

2. Temporary Sensitivity

It can be a good idea to cut oats out of your diet when you first go on a gluten free diet since people sensitive to gluten can also be sensitive to oats as well.  Those who are first diagnosed with celiac disease will often be advised by their doctor to cut out all oats.  We have never discovered why a reaction to gluten and oats should go hand in hand but it often seems to be the case. 

Tips for dealing with the problem

The good news is that this sensitivity can be temporary and that after following a gluten-free diet for a period of time gluten free oats can be reintroduced successfully to your diet.

It can take a long time before you will be able tolerate gluten free oats, so do give yourself time. 

So Are Oats Gluten Free?  Yes and no.  We hope our information has helped you understand what is gluten free and helped you in understanding how to avoid hidden gluten.

Catering for someone who needs gluten free food

If you are cooking for someone who has celiac disease or who is intolerant to gluten please check first whether they eat oats.  If they do then please use gluten free oats.

When making gluten free food for anyone following a gluten-free diet, following a few simple rules will help you avoid hidden gluten and ensure your gluten free meals stays gluten free, we have some easy to follow tips on our
Avoiding Gluten page.

You can also find out more information on our List of Gluten Free Foods page.

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