Celiac and Non-Food Triggers

B.S. Dietetics, Dietitian, Health Professional

Celiac disease (CD) is a condition in which the immune system reacts to the ingestion of the protein gluten. With approximately one in every 133, or at total of 2 million people, dealing with the painful condition it is important to know how to avoid gluten. Gluten is a protein found in many processed foods as well as wheat, barley, and rye.

But, gluten is not only found in foods. It can be found in thousands of non-food triggers, which can cause problems for those who are especially sensitive to the protein.

According to the Celiac Foundation of America cosmetics like lip gloss, lipstick, or lip balms can be an issue because they are often accidentally ingested. Supplements, over-the-counter and prescription medications, vitamins, and even playdough can also potentially cause issues for those with CD.

The key to keeping safe and avoiding gluten is to become an avid label reader. The obvious things to look for include: wheat, barley, rye, malt, brewer’s yeast, and regular oats (aside from those labeled gluten-free).


A recent search of medication databases found that starch was listed in 8,379 individual products or dosage forms. That means that if you have celiac disease, you need to let your pharmacist know. They can help you to double check your medication every time. Brands change, as do generic formulations of medication, so don’t assume that you are safe because you’ve used the medication before. Pillbox and DailyMed are both good tools to help you to keep track of what is in your medication.


Cosmetics that come into contact (purposefully or accidentally) with your mouth, eyes, or other mucous membranes also have the potential to cause CD pain. In very sensitive people even contact with the skin can cause a reaction.

Double check the labels on your favorite products, keeping an eye out for the above mentioned names as well as things like vitamin E that can sometimes be sourced from wheat and contains gluten, orriticum vulgare (wheat bran), secale cereale (rye seed extract), hordeum vulgare (barley), and avena sativa (oat bran).

When in doubt contact the manufacturer, as it may be your best bet. If you know you are extremely sensitive to gluten, you can also check out some of the companies that keep gluten out of their cosmetics like: Afterglow Cosmetics, BITE Beauty, Ecco Bella, E.L.F Cosmetics, Gabriel Cosmetic, IT Cosmetics (with the exception of its mascaras), Red Apple Lipstick, Too Faced Cosmetics (with the exception of the Borderline Lip Pencil), and Zuzu Luxe.

While this is not an exhaustive list, it does give you a place to start. Be sure to spot test any new cosmetics just in case.

Kids crafts

Sadly, there are many kids’ activities that can contain gluten, such as play dough, finger paints, and stickers. It is extremely important as a parent to monitor not only what you have at home but also what your child will be exposed to at school or daycare. For example, Hasbro’s Play Dough is made with wheat flour.

As Hasbro was very slow bringing an alternative to the marketplace, other brands have popped up like: Gluten-Free Wonder Dough, Soy-Yer Dough, and Max’s Mud to replace Play Dough. You can also find tons of gluten-free recipes online or on Pinterest.

With a little extra label reading and some creativity, you can keep non-food items from causing issues with your celiac disease.

See more helpful articles:

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