When it comes to the ingredients in common cosmetics, what the millions of people with celiac disease don’t know, might hurt them. According to research presented this week at the American College of Gastroenterology’s 76th Annual Scientific meeting in Washington, DC, the lack of readily available information about the ingredients in lip, facial, and body products means that people with celiac disease might unknowingly expose themselves to gluten.
Researchers searched for “gluten” and “gluten free” products on the official websites for 10 leading U.S. cosmetic companies, and found that only two offered detailed ingredient information, but none provided information on products containing or not containing gluten. Researchers noted that while some smaller cosmetic companies advertised gluten-free alternatives, "top-selling manufacturers should indicate whether their products can be safely be used by individuals with gluten sensitivity.”
The incidence of celiac disease has been rising in the U.S. and estimates now suggest that at least 1 in 100 people in this country may have the disorder. Gluten is harmful to people with celiac, a condition in which the body’s immune system treats the protein, found in wheat, rye, and barley, like an invader, damaging the small intestine. Patients who do not adhere to a gluten-free lifestyle usually continue to suffer from symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating, gas and diarrhea.
Bottom line: While more research is needed, we do know that the only treatment option for celiac disease is gluten avoidance. If you have celiac disease, ask your doctor for tips on eating and living gluten-free. And always check food and non-food labels (drugs, cosmetics, and even household cleaners). Avoid forms of wheat such as spelt, and triticale (a cross between wheat and rye), as well as kamut, farina, bulgur, durum flour, barley, matzo meal, graham flour, wheat germ and cracked wheat. Refer to the Celiac Sprue Association’s grains and flours glossary for a list of gluten-free and gluten-containing grains.
For more on celiac disease and gluten-free options, read “Living without gluten.”
Information About Cosmetic Ingredients is Difficult to Obtain: A Potential Hazard for Celiac Patients [American College of Gastroenterology]
Treatment of Celiac Disease [Celiac Sprue Assocation]