Updated: Sep 21, 2022
When my son was first diagnosed with food allergies (11 months) I avoided oats as he was allergic to wheat and gluten and my understanding at the time this included oats. In fact when he was around 7 months old I had added a rice and oat porridge, only a little, into his mashed veggies. He had a reaction, the instant running nose, watery/itchy eyes, sneezing, a few random hives, it was a sign something was up. I stopped feeding him, cleaned him up and nursed him. He had consumed one mouthful, I didn’t even consider it was the food, it was so easy to assume it was bad hay fever as it was spring and a blowing day with high pollen count. Mum intuition had kicked in though, cause somehow I didn’t feed him that rice and oat porridge again, phew!
Fast forward to food allergy diagnoses, our allergist included oats in his allergic foods and that was it, we avoided it. Then I came to learn that oats don’t have the same gluten protein as wheat, rye, barley, malt and triticale and the reaction my son experience was most likely due to the oats being contaminated with wheat.
Oats contain a protein call avenin and some people do have an allergy to this protein, however oats do not contain gluten, the issue is they are highly contaminated with gluten due to growing and processing.
Oat crops are easily contaminated with gluten from other gluten containing crops (barley, rye, wheat etc.) they are often grown around these crops and used in crop rotation, so one year wheat, next year oats. So there would easily be some stray wheat growing amongst the oat crop, more than a trace. Then oats get stored in the same silos that previously had gluten grains, followed by transport in trucks and processing in a plant, all of which also handle gluten containing grains. You can see how easy this cross contamination occurs. So if you are anaphylactic you most likely will react to this cross-contamination as its more than just a trace.
If you have a wheat allergy or even a sensitivity, avoid oats unless they are guaranteed wheat free. There are a few producers who have dedicated farms, silos, transport and processing plants that don’t handle gluten containing grains. The two that I am aware of and my son has eaten without incidence are Bob’s Red Mill (US based) and Red Tractor Australian Oats, links below.
So if you have avoided oats due to gluten, I highly recommend exploring them further, speak with your immunologist or allergist, and try wheat free oats. It is so good to have this healthy grain on-board and worth checking if your child actually is allergic to oats or just the cross-contamination process.
The benefits of oats in the diet are many, firstly they contain beta-glucans which impact the gut microbiome (gut bugs), they act as prebiotics feeding the good bacteria in your gut helping balance your gut microbiome and in turn supporting the immune system. If you want to understand the connection between food allergies, gut health and the immune system, you can download my ebook here which goes into more detail, plus provides tips.
The soluble fibre in oats are also helpful in the reduction of cholesterol, balancing blood glucose, eases constipation, high in protein (when compared to other grains), and contain antioxidants. Another benefit of oats, they contain tryptophan which is needed to make melatonin, the hormone our brain requires to regulate the sleep-wake cycle. A little bowl of porridge may be helpful, if your child is having sleep issues.
If you are want to know more, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
I have a bunch of recipes using oats, here on my website (scroll down) and also on my instagram page.
Wheat free oats:
Smulders MJM, van de Wiel CCM, van den Broeck HC, van der Meer IM, Israel-Hoevelaken TPM, Timmer RD, van Dinter BJ, Braun S, Gilissen LJWJ. Oats in healthy gluten-free and regular diets: A perspective. Food Res Int. 2018 Aug;110:3-10. doi: 10.1016/j.foodres.2017.11.031. Epub 2017 Nov 21. PMID: 30029703.