The Hidden Danger of GREEN for Celiacs

Yesterday afternoon, someone tweeted about hydrolyzed wheat in dish soap with a big “WHY???” and reminded me of a long overdue post. Celiac and gluten intolerance do not mix well with the “Green Movement.” In fact, the more products that come out, the more I see “green” products are very dangerous for us.

There are several problems and reasons why. First, “Green Companies” like Seventh Generation, ECover, Green Works, and so many more derive their agents from “plant-based materials” and or “plant cellulose.” Sounds harmless enough to the general population, but when it comes down to it, some of the best sources, from what I can gather are products celiacs and the Gluten Intolerant avoid. When people think “wheat” in food, they even make the mistake originally thinking oh, just “wheat bread.” My sweet brother is always offering me cookies, pasta, cake because it’s made from “bleached flour” and he doesn’t make the connection. A lot of people don’t.

In the same way, the gluten-free keep our eye out for “wheat, barley, rye, spelt, oats” and rarely think about products that we don’t ingest. (That is another upcoming post). We forget that wheat, oats, rye (and yes, I’m using oats here b/c in the general population and in products they are not certified GF) are PLANTS. In fact, they have straw which produces very good plant cellulose. Corn is also used often, and many of my twitter followers must avoid corn.

Sadly, I pieced this together through the blood and tears of my three-year old son. He’s always had severe problems with chlorine. So, we had to be careful with diapers because many are bleached for them to look better. Finally, when Pampers changed their formula to their core and he started having blisters on his bum, I tried “HUGGIES NATURAL.” Those created the worst “rash” we’ve ever seen to the point where his skin peeled off and was bleeding. It was more like a chemical burn. Huggies couldn’t figure it out; their diapers are “plant-based.” At that point, I didn’t understand the “plant” issue. We found a temporary solution until another company changed their diaper core and he started having problems. It wasn’t until months later when I tried Seventh generation wipes that I got it. By then I’d learned a little more about celiac and gluten reactions. The Seventh Generation wipes would cause him to bleed as did the diapers. However, he’d react to the wipes immediately. When I’d wipe him, he’s squeal in pain and they’d leave behind red skin. Upon sitting in the diaper, the combination would make the skin on his bum peel and bleed. “These are NATURAL” wipes with NO cholorine, what is going on!?” Eventually, I noticed marketing sticker: “Cleaning agents derived from plants.” Hmmmm, what kind of plants?

Finally, I got on their website and started looking into the products. While I did find out they DO put wheat in their feminine pads, the diapers don’t contain it, nor the wipes. However, the diapers and the wipes are made with plant-based materials. It suddenly made sense- he’s so sensitive and severely reacts to oat and other grains. Until he was two, he also reacted to most of the cross-reactive foods research is are starting to discover, including corn. Seventh Generation will not guarantee their products are gluten-free, and moreover, they do not disclose which other materials they might use for their plant derived or cellulose based products. Many companies use corn as well.

In poking around on the internet for this post, I found out why we can’t get the information. The Simple Green company gives a great clue as to why we need to be extremely careful to the products we buy. In the FAQ Section on their website is the answer for so many questions:

Ingredients – Why aren´t the ingredients listed on the label? Simple Green® is non-toxic. Sunshine Makers, Inc. has had the required independent laboratory tests conducted to verify this. Therefore, it is not required by law to list the ingredients on the label. Simple Green´s unique formula is protected under the US Trade Secrecy Act. Simple Green complies with all current labeling laws for ingredient disclosure on cleaning products. Some disclosure of ingredients will be given on a case by case basis as required by physicians, veterinarians, or highway safety agents. If you want to inquire about what ingredients are or are not found in our products, please contact the Simple Green Technical Department at 800-228-0709.

Of course the plenty of people tweet and ask: “What about the big 8, Shouldn’t those be listed?” Nope. Guess what, FDA does not regulate these products because they are not food or drugs. So, these companies are not bound by the same FDA regulations to list those ingredients! That means we are still being exposed even when we are label reading every food item we buy at the store.

I’ve seen a few people with celiac disease post that “as long as you don’t ingest something, you’ll be safe.” While I have an entire article to write on this, it’s sadly a myth and like playing with fire. Here’s the problem with soaps, etc. Many soaps, lotions etc contain penetrating ingredients to get INTO the skin, especially moisturizer ones. And, the “moisturizing” ones, I’ve found are fantastic at containing wheat protein because it moisturizes. While I’m not a lab to do studies to prove just how much gets left behind, I’m guessing some of these wheat proteins will be left on the skin and when you go eat that fantastic juicy peach or strawberries with your hands, you’ll ingest some of it. (Because that’s the point, for them to remain on your skin and moisturize you.) I haven’t even gotten into the details that our skin is our largest organ and is capable of ingesting things, which means over time you get these products into your system.

With dish soap etc that contains wheat or even plant derived ingredients, you are still putting yourself at risk. I’ve heard of people throwing out their pans when they are diagnosed with celiac because many believe the gluten can harbor in non-stick material. While this is a controversy, however, we know that gluten is harder to just wash away. If it wasn’t, we wouldn’t be demanding gluten-free facilities for our food. We’d be happy to let companies simply wash and sanitize a machine and produce on the same line as products made with gluten. So, do we really want to wash our dishes with wheat or “plant materials” that might contain gluten ingredients?

Finally, after looking over several websites, product listings and then going into the MSDS of several products, I don’t believe most of them are any more safe for anyone or the environment. Many ingredients are still carcinogenic and I’ve found more harsh than their non-green counterparts. I’ve personally found when I’ve used brands like ECover, Simple Green, Seventh Generation, and the “green label” Windex or other main brands, I and my son are more prone to an asthma attack or breathing issues. Most still have excessive packaging. It might be more biodegradable, but in the end, we usually pay more for less product, plenty of packaging and sometimes less safe. Because we already pay two-to-five times what most people pay in our food budget, we should seriously re-examine if these green products are worth it. For now, I stick with some of the main brands without “naturally derived” or “plant based” materials and eventually plan to move to making some of my own products. I’ve already started experimenting with making my own lotion, and it’s fantastic! In the end, the most economical and environmental friendly is making our own anyway. Check out a group on Facebook called: Recipes For Natural Living. The moderator posts recipes to help make your own cleaners and even other things like brandy! Plenty of sites provide this information too. Google “How to Make household cleaners.”

Although “plant based materials” might not always contain wheat, oats etc, again, i’m grouping oats on purpose) because the companies don’t disclose which plants they use, these green products provide real dangers to celiacs and the gluten intolerant. If a company says “plant based” cleaning agents, or “plant based _________” you might consider buying something else unless you can confirm what “plants” they use.

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7 thoughts on “The Hidden Danger of GREEN for Celiacs

  1. This is very frustrating because I prefer to go green whenever possible. Green products are a lot more conscious about eco footprints and that’s really important to me. I don’t approve of all the chemicals and preservatives in everything as well. Very often I react to the chemicals and preservatives too with a horrible long-lasting rash :( So I prefer to go green as often as possible.

    I’m really lucky that the green wash-up liquid I use has done some research into this as well, about 2 years ago they included a leaflet wrapped around each bottle of wash-up liquid, laundry detergent, and bottle of cleaner they sold. The leaflet said basically exactly what you’re saying – that they realised if you use something like a detergent that has wheat you’re bound to ingest it if you’re wearing it. So they were changing their recipes to make sure they were safe for coeliacs. So that’s really good. But ya, I didn’t even realise they were in feminine products, that’s insane!

    But that does explain why I am always having horrible reactions to the ‘natural’ cosmetics out there! So frustrating – I want to go natural and green and when I do I get sick! :(

  2. Great post! I have food allergies and found out the hard way, that I had to stop eating soy because of my shampoo! It sounds strange but seriously, I could eat soy until I started using organic shampoo and hairspray that had soy in it. I ended up w/ a horrible rash at the base of my head/neck and I couldn’t pinpoint the problem. Then I started noticing that soy started to make me ill when I ate it. I finally looked at my organic shampoo only to realize that soy protein was in it! I quit using the products and eating soy and the rash went away. Now I have a terrible time finding a chem free, organic shampoo that doesn’t have some sort of food protein in it. Wheat protein, soy protein, corn, etc. are all typically included in one organic shampoo or another.

    Anyway, suffice it to say, more and more organic producers are going this route and I have had to start making my own shampoo recipes. I have yet to find the exact one that works really well for me but I don’t really have a choice but to find one where I know what’s in it.

    Thanks for the FB shout out too! :)

  3. Thanks Brandy and stormy. Yes, natural products are very problematic. If you’re allergic to ragweed, etc, then things like chamomile are horrble for you. Lavender, another huge one….especially if you are one prone to hayfever. But they are “calming” so manufactuers use them like crazy.

    Brandy, I should have known with Ian. He turned bright red with a baby lotion when he was little….looking back, I know it had oat, it might have had wheat. We are talking almost chemical burn again. Poor little guy is our gluten canary.

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  5. Thank you for getting this information out there!

    It makes so little sense to me that despite taking measures to prevent (for instance) indirect peanut exposure in schools, airplanes, etc., people are not concerned to do the same regarding DIRECT exposure to equally-common, severe allergens. Even with the understanding that topical reactions resulting only from skin contact can and do occur, as you and the commenters above have pointed out. Though they’re (usually) not as life-threatening as the allergic reactions that can happen with foods, skin reactions are still an allergic reaction and wheat is a fairly common trigger, from what I understand.

    Oh, and it’s not just the “Green” products that may have hidden triggers – many conventional body care products & soap contain wheat, oats, nut oils, and so on. I really wish the FDA would regulate things that are meant for people to put on their bodies. You’re correct in assuming that some wheat or oat protein from lotion could transfer from hands to food.

    Incidentally, allergic reactions and the reaction in celiac disease come from different “branches” of the immune system, so to speak – I have heard of people with celiac disease (which is of course a reaction to gluten) who ALSO have an allergic reaction to one or more of the many *other* wheat proteins.

    Some research supports a theory that highly processed proteins (like hydrolyzed wheat protein) are actually more allergenic than the complete protein, because the smaller protein fragments are more easily “mistaken” for a pathogen by the immune system – and because of that, maybe these highly-processed ingredients have even contributed to the significant rise in allergies. I don’t think it’s concretely proven, but it seems plausible!

    By the way, I too have encountered people who assume I can eat things made with bleached flour because it’s not the “whole” wheat! These myths and assumptions and misunderstandings surrounding food sensitivities and safety all go to show how important education is.

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  7. I have been dealing with gluten intolerance for almost two decades now…. I did learn fast the new rage of wheat protein in shampoo was a hazard .I use steam and some usually homemade cleaners.. WOW Pads never would have thunk ty :)

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