Dirty and Sticky: Gluten Sensitivity in the House and Garden

Those with gluten sensitivity are acquainted with “mystery glutenings”, unexpected and inexplicable reactions. Here are a few more possible culprits.

© Darorcilmir with CCLicense
© Darorcilmir with CCLicense

Do you have a container garden or are you considering starting a vegetable garden with store bought dirt? If you are gluten sensitive you need to know that Miracle Gro soils have been the cause of  gluten reactions. I have some potted succulent plants and bought Miracle Gro last spring after dividing them, only to have terrible nauseous gluten reactions after repotting them into the new mix. Now I use gloves and a face mask to handle those plants. I have been glutened by airborne dirt and by dirt deep under my fingernails which leeched out later, possibly even by topical gluten. In researching, I found reports from vegetable gardeners who had used Miracle Gro and developed gluten reactions to food they had grown in their own gardens, in much the same way that some people have reactions to oats grown in the same soil as wheat. You see, gluten in the soil goes right into the flesh of whatever plants are grown in it, creating a hazardous situation for those who are sensitive. If you are a gardener growing food in Miracle Gro soil, you can make yourself or others sick. Removing contaminated soil is going to be an extremely difficult proposition, especially if  it has been amended deep into the soil.

UPDATE: Ten years later, it seems that the likelihood of gluten contamination being in the flesh of the plant is low, but not completely ruled out. It’s more likely that the equipment used for oat harvesting has also been used for wheat, barley, or rye and it’s simply cross contaminated. So if you have tomatoes or something growing above ground, you should be able to wash it off. Something like potatoes or carrots you would need to clean very thoroughly. Peeling would be a good idea.

© Digital Tribes with CCLicense
© Digital Tribes with CCLicense

Gluten can also be found in adhesives. We might expect it in industrial glues or superglue, but you might not think about “stickum”, the substance used in lickable envelopes and stamps. These substances are not regulated and may  contain gluten. If you are sensitive, I recommend using self adhesive envelopes and stamps so that you don’t need to lick them. I have been glutened doing so. Another source of gluten in schools and home offices is in stamp and ink pads, which frequently have wheat in them. This is also an in issue when ink stamps are used on the skin to gain access to an event. Gluten free stamp pads can be purchased at Discount School Supplies.

If you are gluten sensitive please feel free to share your suspicions about mystery glutenings in the comments section. I am always amazed when I suspect a product and find others who confirm my suspicions. Reactions can easily be caused by contaminated ingredients or preparation areas and equipment, even if the item is technically gluten free.

Other posts in this series include: Gluten Sensitivity: An IntroductionGluten Sensitivity and the Artist: Avoiding Wheat Flour in Art SuppliesGluten Sensitivity for Construction Workers, Artists, and Children: Building and Crafting Materials, and Make-up and Cleaning Products: Gluten Sensitivity On and Off the Stage.

5 thoughts on “Dirty and Sticky: Gluten Sensitivity in the House and Garden

  1. Pingback: Must Register Gluten Summit « CorePsych

    • katmcdaniel Reply

      Thanks! I’ve been living with this for almost a year now and feel like some of the things I have gone through can help others.

  2. Nikki Reply

    I’m looking for more sources or confirmation about the miracle grow potting soil contenting gluten- can you direct me anywhere? I’m really trying to figure out a mystery glutening but this is the only thing I’ve found so far on miracle grow. I’d hate to throw out my garden if that’s not the culprit but I’m going crazy trying to figure it out.

    • katmcdaniel Post authorReply

      Hi! It’s been a few years since I dealt with this. A friend of mine and myself both had reactions after gardening on separate occasions. It was also mentioned on some of the Celiac boards on Reddit and a few other places; some of those references seem to have aged-out or disappeared over the past few years. Knowing more now than I used to, I wonder if it would be possible to contact Miracle Grow to ask if there was any wheat, barley or rye in their process or if it was possible for their soil to be come contaminated with wheat, barley or rye as it was harvested. I don’t know if they would know or if they would be upfront about it, but it might be worth asking. I’ve updated this post slightly since it has been so long.

      Thanks and let me know if you get a response from Miracle Gro.

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