Having Celiac Disease or a gluten-intolerance makes getting your supplements and gluten-free medications a whole lot more complicated simply because of ingredients and cross-contamination. I cannot tell you how many times I have been on the phone with a manufacturer trying to find out if a medication is gluten-free. This list is long! Here are my tips.
THE FRUSTRATIONS OF NEEDING GLUTEN-FREE MEDICATIONS
Now that you have a gluten-intolerance or celiac disease guess what?
Not only do you now have to watch everything you eat because of gluten, but you must check all of your medications, minerals, probiotics, vitamins, make-up, chapsticks, and well the whole darn drug store. Prescription, Brand, Generic, over the counter, and even Herbal and Holistic medications, supplements, remedies, etc. Why would there be gluten in medication? Because it's often used as a binding ingredient or coating and even an additive. It's crazy, I know! But this is important!
Not all doctors/pharmacists know if your medication has gluten in it
Even more annoying? Sometimes the Pharmacists and Doctors don't know. So you have to do the research yourself. Don't think for one second that a small amount of gluten won't harm you because that's bogus. Just the smallest amount of ⅛ teaspoon will send your immune system totally out of whack and it will do some serious damage, even if you don't immediately notice. And let's just say you decided to take that medication anyway, you know the one with the gluten. Gluten build-up is a bitch. Don't make that mistake on purpose. It's not worth the pain and the set back you will end up feeling later on. Don't play Russian Roulette with your body!
So now what? What do you do? How do you find out if your meds are gluten-free? How can you ever go to a drug store again anxiety-free? Here are some helpful questions you can ask a pharmacist.
Always communicate with your team of doctors
First and foremost. Tell all of your Doctors and your Pharmacist that you have Celiac Disease or a Gluten-Sensitivity. That information should be on your charts!
Sometimes if you are lucky and your Pharmacist is savvy, they might alert you ahead of time that there is gluten in one of the products your doctor called in for you, or even vitamin and even a nasal spray!
What I have found is that the BEST and SAFEST way to find out if the product you need has gluten is to call the manufacturer yourself. I know, it's a hassle, but it will be an even bigger hassle if you get sick. I will either call the number on the back of the product or visit the product's website, check out their FAQ page, then go to their contact page and send a professional email inquiring about the product or products. Here are some helpful tips and helpful medication links!
GLUTEN-FREE MEDICATIONS RESOURCES
As far back as 2012 Advil Liqui-Gels were not gluten-free and contained a wheat derivative in their ingredients. This is no longer stated and instead of a disclaimer that they cannot consider any product gluten-free due to outsourced ingredients and cross-contamination.
Gluten-Free Drugs New List 2019 - The creator of the gluten-free drug lists is in the midst of creating a new format that may be more readable to most, which is why I am including it here.
Gluten-free Drugs List 2017 (on this list you will see #1's and #2's at the end of each drug. #1 means totally gluten-free. #2 means that the product doesn't have gluten ingredients added, but the manufacturer cannot confirm the status since they don't test for gluten in the final product. I like this list, even though it is older because it states more generic drug info.
Are you looking for a doctor that either specializes in Celiac Disease or has a profound understanding of the disease? If so, check out these Alternative & Functional Doctors as well as the Celiac Disease Foundation.
TIPS FOR FINDING GLUTEN-FREE MEDICATIONS AND SUPPLEMENTS
- Always read labels. Both active ingredients and inactive ingredients of all gluten-free medications.
- If the product does not have both lists of ingredients either call the manufacturer before you buy it (like right then and there break out your cell phone and call the number on the back of the label unless it's past 5 pm when customer service closes) or skip it altogether.
- When there is an ingredient you don't understand ask the pharmacist what the ingredient is, and ask if it is derived from a gluten source. If the pharmacist doesn't know, break out your handy cell phone again and google it. (Google is a blessing for this reason alone)
- All products under one brand are NOT created equal. Pay attention to this one! For example, Advil Liqui-Gels and Advil Migraine are NOT gluten-free. They both contain wheat. But all other Advil products are gluten-free. Get the drift? It's complicated. And it varies in every country including Canada. It's different everywhere!
- Never assume anything. Gluten lurks everywhere.
- Here's a tricky one. Sometimes gluten is not an ingredient in the product but is cross-contaminated with the product or an additional ingredient is outsourced by another supplier and isn't listed on the package. So here you may think that must mean it is gluten-free. NOT. Example: Hall's Cough Drops. Although Hall's Cough Drops do not contain any ingredients containing gluten, they cannot consider themselves gluten-free. Why? Because they often purchase flavorings, spice, and coloring ingredients from other suppliers that do not often list the ingredients. Therefore this would be a brand that is not safe for Celiacs, and furthermore would be a perfect example of hidden gluten. Another example is the Anti-Anxiety Zoloft and Ativan Brand. Zoloft and Ativan brand is not suitable for Celiacs since these brands cannot confirm if the vendors supplying raw materials have gluten HOWEVER, the generics of these brands vary.
- The Generic version of a branded medication also may have gluten. Brand vs. Generic is not created equal. In this instance, say you go to the doctor and they prescribe an antibiotic brand, but you instead get generic. These two versions are different and have different ingredients. More often generic drugs use other additives, coloring agents, and/or starches that differ from the brand, and it is possible that the additive is a gluten derivative, but on the same front many do not use gluten. Since it is so tricky to figure it out it is always best to call the manufacturer and speak to the allergy team. In this instance, you will want to call both manufacturers ahead of time to confirm if each contains gluten, or are contaminated with gluten. (unless you have an amazing pharmacist who will do the legwork for you)
- Products always change their ingredients. Sometimes products come out with "new and improved" or "enhanced" versions. Which means the ingredients may have changed too.
- Nose drops. Yes, this goes for nose drops too. All nose drops are not created equal. Just because the "mist" is gluten-free, doesn't mean the "gel" version is too.
- Sometimes the Pharmacist may tell you there is a "starch" derivative in your medication. A "starch" derivative does not necessarily mean gluten. It can be a corn source, often called Corn Gluten, which is safe for Celiacs. In this case, you would call the manufacturer and speak with their customer service center to get the details.
- If there is ever a time that your insurance will not cover your medication because it's a brand, you can easily call your insurance company or have your doctor call your insurance company and speak with a Supervisor. You can dispute this due to your Disease. In certain circumstances, the supervisor will override the original decision.
THE PERKS OF BUILDING UP A GLUTEN-FREE MEDICATION SPREADSHEET
The perks of this annoying part of the life process? Keep the answers logged into a notebook or a spreadsheet (on Excel or Google Sheets) on what has gluten and what doesn't. Add the brand, and the phone number so if you need to get an updated answer yearly, everything is at your fingertips and can be done with ease. Eventually, that organized spreadsheet can help someone else. Now that is called paying it forward.