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Does Coffee Cross-react as Gluten

You may have heard that “coffee cross-reacts as gluten.” Is this actually true? Well, yes and no. This appears to only be true for instant coffee. Let’s discuss.

Does Coffee Contain Gluten?
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Dr. Michael Ruscio: Hi, this is Dr. Ruscio, and let’s discuss if coffee contains gluten. Now, if you’re someone who is suspicious that they’re gluten sensitive or if you have celiac disease, then you’re of course trying to avoid gluten, if not exclusively, at least partially in your life. And with coffee being such a popular beverage, knowing if coffee does or does not contain gluten is actually fairly important to making sure that you do a good job with the dietary aspect of your healthcare picture.

Now, it’s often cited that coffee can cross-react with gluten. And I recently came across a paper—and I think it’s the paper that actually substantiates this claim—and there’s a clarification I’d like to make. Coffee, in this study, did cause a cross-reaction with gluten. So it triggered a gluten response, but only instant coffee, and only because the instant coffee was contaminated with trace amounts of gluten. When pure coffee, or not instant coffee, was assessed, there was no reaction.

So I think this is very important for everyone to be aware of. If you like coffee, if you enjoy coffee, and you have non-celiac gluten sensitivity or you’re celiac or you’re just noticing an aversion to gluten, you don’t have to worry about non-instant coffee. Instant coffee may be a problem. But regular coffee, regular espresso does not seem to be a problem, at least according to this one study, which I believe was the keynote study that substantiated this.

We’re currently undergoing a review of the literature. If we find any other contradictory information, I will report back, but I’m fairly confident that this is the one study where this information stems from.

[time lapse]

Hey, this is Dr. Ruscio. Went through the review of the literature on this issue, coffee reactivity with gluten, and we did not find any other papers that found that coffee itself cross-reacts with gluten. So it does appear that it is gluten contamination served in instant coffees that causes cross-reactivity. Again, this is important because many people may avoid coffee in an unneeded fashion because of a mis-referencing of the original study that coffee cross-reacts with gluten. But after again going through a comprehensive review of the literature on this, we did not find any other papers that supported this.

Now, this does not mean that coffee is a good idea for every person. Some people do not do well with coffee. People who have reflux may have reactions to coffee. People that have irritable bowel syndrome may have a negative reaction to coffee. People who are prone towards fatigue or brain fog or fuzzy thinking or even anxiety may not do well with coffee. So I ask my patients a simple question, do you notice you feel better or worse when you drink more or less coffee?

If people notice no negative changes when they drink more coffee, then usually I don’t take issue with that. But if they say, yeah, if I have more than two cups in a day, my brain gets foggy, I get anxious, I can’t sleep well, I get bloated, I get reflux, I get looser stools, then we’ll have them perform a few weeks off of coffee and see how they do. And this is a very simple exercise to go through to see if you do better or worse on coffee. Some people are drinking coffee and do not do well or does not agree with their system and they truly do feel better coming off it most of the time. Not to say you can never have coffee if you go through an elimination and then notice if you feel better. But you may want to not make it a dietary staple if you notice you feel better off of it.

And there’s also two components of this which is, is it the coffee itself or is it the caffeine? Some people, it’s the caffeine; other people, it’s the coffee. So if you’re going to run this experiment, I would run the experiment by coming off of coffee and all caffeine. I know it could be tough if you’ve been on a significant dose, you may want to slowly wean yourself off. Get yourself to none. Give yourself a week or two. You may not feel great especially the first few days. Give yourself a week or two, see how you feel, if you feel better then there you go. If you’re not sure, bring the coffee or the caffeine source back in, see how you respond. And if you notice any kind of negative symptomatic regression that correlates with that, then you may want to only make coffee and/or caffeine an occasional treat. Again, it doesn’t mean you have to avoid it exclusively. But if you notice you don’t feel well on it, you may want to make it a rare occasion type of endeavor rather than something that you do on your day in and day out.

So anyway, this is Dr. Ruscio, we just wanted to address this question of coffee and gluten. And good news for coffee drinkers, coffee lovers, myself included in that, is that there does not appear to be cross-reactivity, but rather it is contamination with gluten in instant coffee only.

This is Dr. Ruscio, and I hope this information helps you get healthy and get back to your life. Thanks.

What do you think? I would like to hear your thoughts or experience with this.

Dr. Ruscio is your leading functional and integrative doctor specializing in gut related disorders such as SIBO, leaky gut, Celiac, IBS and in thyroid disorders such as hypothyroid and hyperthyroid. For more information on how to become a patient, please contact our office. Serving the San Francisco bay area and distance patients via phone and Skype.


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