Cross-Reactive Foods to Gluten

“For crying out loud in the mud!”


Photo by from Pexel


I once heard one of my mom’s friends say that when I was a child.  I thought it was so funny, that she added “in the mud”!

However, this phrase came to mind when I stumbled upon a list of foods that gluten intolerant people may not be able to eat due to cross-reactivity because of a similar “molecular signature”.  Yes, some foods have molecular structures that closely resembles gluten. So, when you consume one of these foods your body might mistake it for gluten; and it appears that those problematic foods can vary with each individual.

Now understand this, fellow celiac disease and gluten intolerant people. I had been looking for answers as to why I might have been having GI issues even though I was being very careful about avoiding gluten. And dairy. And corn. Next I had added rice to that list, avoiding that as well.  But then I had the opportunity to eat it.

And I had started doubting myself.

Maybe I am a weird hypochondriac.  Maybe it is okay to eat some of these foods that I am denying myself. Maybe it is all in my head. After all, the food looks so innocent. So I ate some of the forbidden. NO, not my forbidden three: gluten, dairy, corn.  Just a little innocuous grains like quinoa and brown rice.  Why can’t a person eat some rice, for heaven’s sake. Then a couple of days later I ate two gluten-free (GF), dairy-free (DF) cookies, made with some rice flour that a friend bought special for me.  And the next day, I ate some twiggish, pretzel-like grain things. And one more day later, I wasn’t feeling so good.  Sluggish, increasingly belchy since that first GF/DF cookie. Nauseated. No appetite. Next day even worse. Gastrointestinal distress galore.

So, I did some more research and what I came across was that there are a bunch of other foods that gluten intolerant people may not be able to tolerate because the molecular structure is so similar to the gluten molecule; therefore if you eat one of these foods your body may mistake it for gluten.

This is when I start crying in the mud.  Or thinking about it anyway.

Here is the cross-reactive list, and it is controversial, as some include some things on it that others don’t: Corn and things made out of corn (this is a big one because so many people substitute this for gluten items), rice too for that matter, coffee (this one may be the most controversial), eggs (come ON!), chocolate (ouch), quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat, tapioca (feeling of despair, what will I thicken things with), potato (what???), soy, sesame, hemp, millet, oats, teff, and yeast.  There are more in the dairy category, such as milk, whey protein, cheese, sour cream, and yogurt. In fact, depending on which expert you talk to, 50-80% of people who cannot tolerate gluten cannot tolerate dairy either due to the molecular structure being so similar.

It almost seemed like too much. For crying out loud in the mud!

But, bottom line, I am pursuing health, and if that is what it takes, then that is what I need to do.  And I will do it, I told myself. Because not feeling functional is so much worse. And I want to feel good even, not just functional. Read these last few sentences again. In fact, I once told God that I would happily only eat lettuce if I could just feel good again. Thankfully, it has not yet come to that. But I wish I had said Paleo pizza instead.

So, just a head’s up.  If you have already eliminated gluten and dairy, and are still having issues, then consider these other foods that can be cross-reactive. It seems that all of us GF’ers are different; what bothers me may not bother you, and vice versa.  You will have to experiment, or be tested.  Sorry for the bad news.


Photo by from Pexels

Other Bad News

It is called lectins, a protein found in many foods, especially vegetables. Lectins are being talked about more and more, and they too are controversial in some camps. I for one believe that high lectin foods can be very problematic. If you want to check into this more you might want to order Dr. Steven Gundry’s book, The Plant Paradox.  I highly recommend it.

But Don’t Despair

The good news is that, even if you have to omit some of those cross-reactive foods, there are still plenty of delicious foods to enjoy and that provide powerful nutrients to your body. Quality meat and fish, many vegetables and fruit, nuts and seeds, healthy oils, sweet potatoes can be very satisfying. There are even cake, cookie, cracker, pizza crust, and bread options that most people do well with that are not cross-reactive and are not high in lectins. One brand, Simple Mills, has all of those. I am one BIG fan of that company.  However, that being said, I believe the major focus of what we eat should be on whole foods that come more in their natural state, and save the boxed food for treats and feasts.



It is possible that some day, after you have had significant gut healing, that you will be able to tolerate more of the above foods. Probably not gluten, but some experts are beginning to think maybe so. So be of good cheer.

Bottom line, you have to become a detective and figure out what your body will thrive on, then commit to eating that way.  It is worth it!

Check out this article I wrote for more comprehensive information about celiac disease.

Or this one for a more humorous view of the difficulties of living gluten-free: The Freak Who Cannot Eat Wheat


If you would like to receive more information like this, sign up for my free weekly newsletter at the top right area of this post.  If you are interested in working with me as a health coach and would like to schedule a free discovery call to see if we are a good fit, I would love to talk to you. Contact me here.

This post was updated 10/5/18.

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