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Natural Awakenings Dallas -Fort Worth Metroplex Edition

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Gluten in Lipstick Speaks Volumes About Allergies

May 14, 2012 12:38PM ● By Betty Murray

Betty Murray, CN, HHC

People with celiac disease are used to checking labels for gluten in food, but new research shows that gluten lurking in cosmetics, shampoos and body care products can cause symptoms. Gluten is a type of protein found in wheat, barley, spelt, rye and triticale. When people that have celiac disease consume gluten, their immune system attacks the lining of the small intestine, crucial for absorbing nutrients from food. The only treatment for celiac disease is a gluten-free diet.

Food label laws passed by the FDA in 2009 require products to start labeling gluten, although they have yet to be enforced. But body lotions, lipsticks, toothpaste and other beauty products rarely provide that information, even though many such products contain substances derived from grain that can be swallowed and cause immune reactions.

The top 10 leading makeup companies do not provide any information about products that contain gluten, according to researchers from George Washington University. Gluten can't be absorbed through the skin, but people may accidentally ingest small quantities of lotion, lipstick and other products if they have it on their hands or use it around their mouth.

A handful of companies do make gluten-free cosmetics, and the public can contact manufacturers directly to find out which of their products contain gluten. The Environmental Working Gluten found in cosmeticsGroup (ewg.org/skindeep) maintains a database to search for gluten-free and toxin-free ingredients.

When products do list their ingredients, careful label reading is a must; but simply looking for the word "gluten" isn't sufficient, researchers say. For instance, vitamin E and many oils found in cosmetics contain wheat and gluten, even though the label just lists vitamin E.


Betty Murray, CN, HHC, is a certified nutritionist, health counselor, author, public speaker and founder of Living Well Dallas, an integrative medical center in Dallas. For more information, visit Livingwelldallas.com.

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