Gluten in the bathroom may sound odd but when you think about it if there is one room in the house where you keep all your medicines, that is generally the bathroom. And these products might contain gluten.
There is some controversy as to whether a product containing gluten has to be ingested to cause a reaction. For instance, some people argue that topical creams are not an issue whilst others say that gluten can be absorbed into the bloodstream and will trigger a negative response. To prove either theory, the individual will have to try and see what happens.
One item we use on a daily basis is toothpaste. The vast majority of big manufacturers such as Crest and Colgate, as well as others, do produce gluten free products. Nonetheless, it is worth checking with the manufacturer to ensure you are getting gluten free products. After all, the toothpaste is in your mouth every day at least twice, if you brush in the morning and before going to bed. Take a look at Gluten Free Bathroom Products and Gluten Free Toothpaste to see what is available.
In regards to medications, both prescription and over the counter, they all have fillers added to the active drugs. These fillers are known as excipients which are inactive substances that are used simply as carriers for the active ingredients found in medicines. They provide the shape of the tablets and make up the bulk of the substance. For example, paracetamol, can aid in water absorption which helps the tablet to break up in the body. These fillers can be derived from a selection of starchy sources including corn, tapioca, potatoes, and wheat. It is only the wheat, though, which contains gluten.
At this point it is important to note that there is a difference in products based on where you reside. Thankfully gluten in medicines is not the same issue in the UK as it is in other countries.
In the UK, GPs (General Practitioners) always prescribe medicines that are licensed under and listed in prescribing guides such as the BNF (British National Formulary) and MIMS (Monthly Index of Medical Specialties). The MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency) is a government agency entrusted with ensuring that medicines are acceptably safe. They have stated that all medications listed in the prescribing guidelines are gluten free.
If the medicine were to contain wheat starch then this would have to be disclosed on both the label and the patient pamphlet that accompanies the medication. However it is worth noting that the wheat starch used in these cases is considered pharmaceutical grade and as such is highly processed. As a result, it can be considered gluten free meaning that licensed medications which contain this grade of wheat starch are still suitable for people who have problems with gluten in their diets, such as celiac disease sufferers.
When purchasing over-the-counter medicine in the UK, as long as there is a Product Licence (PL) number on the packet, it can be assumed to be gluten free. Again this can be found either on the packaging itself or the informational sheet.
However if symptoms associated with a gluten intolerance or celiac disease do present themselves then a GP should be contacted. It is important to continue taking prescribed medicines unless advised otherwise by a professional.
If it is time to remove old medicines from your home, start with the ones which are used often before looking for gluten content in those medicines rarely used. Several organizations regularly publish lists of gluten-free medications and have directories of pharmaceutical company contact information. These can serve as a starting point to determine whether the medicines are gluten free.
A few steps should be taken to help minimise the likelihood of receiving gluten in medicines. Discuss the issue with your pharmacist and remind him/her every time a prescription is filled that it must be gluten free. Please remember, though, that the pharmacy staff are not likely to be experts in where inactive ingredients are derived. Ask your own doctor for first and second choice prescriptions so that you can substitute in case one turns out to be unsafe.
Contacting the manufacturer is important as they can state decisively whether there is gluten or not. It is worth pressing them, though, for the specific excipient so that you can look it up yourself. Some manufacturers categorise excipients based on sugar alcohol as a source of gluten such as isomalt, sorbitol, mannitol, malitol, xylitol and lactilol. However they are so highly refined that their existence in medications is unlikely to create any negative reactions.
A red flag when reviewing ingredients on the medicine’s leaflet is any starch based ingredient called pregelatinised starch and sodium starch glycolate particularly if they are not marked as coming from a gluten free source. Although it can be an effort, it is worthwhile checking through all medicines and they should be rechecked periodically as manufacturers do change their manufacturing processes.