Monday, February 23, 2009

Tainted Chocolate or Why Gluten isn’t just Wheat

Valentine’s Day recently passed and many of us enjoyed our favorite confection – chocolate. A patient came into the clinic several days after Valentine’s complaining of a red itchy rash around her mouth. The skin was dry, red, itchy and irritated. She was confused by the symptom because it had always been the hallmark of a gluten indiscretion but she wasn’t aware of any gluten which had come into her diet. She did confess to enjoying candy over the holiday and was concerned that perhaps she had flared up some yeast.

One thing about having treated so many patients, I have become a very good detective! I immediately asked her for specifics as regarded her candy consumption. Her fiancé had bought her Lindor Truffles. Having a love for chocolate myself, I have pretty much memorized which chocolates are safe and which have gluten. I had a suspicion and asked her if she had read the ingredient list. Not surprisingly, she hadn’t.

A very common source of gluten contamination comes from a patient “knowing” that a food is okay. What could be in chocolate? Barley - in this particular case.

Another source of gluten contamination is from patient’s equating “gluten” with “wheat”. Glutinous grains include wheat, rye, barley, spelt, kamut, etc. (Visit my website: for a complete list.) Once the above patient read the ingredients she sent a link to me asking if there was anything in them that was a problem. Because there was no “wheat” listed she thought she was fine.

The take-away is this: do a little memorization drill with yourself until you can easily rattle off ALL the grains that are glutinous. And…read the ingredients of everything!

To your good health,

Dr Vikki Petersen, author of The Gluten Effect

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