When I was first diagnosed with celiac disease almost 11 years ago, not only did I avoid eating gluten, I avoided the smell of it. When I walked past the baker in the grocery store, I got a headache. I also got a headache from the smell of the bread that my family used.
I don’t have a scientific explanation for that reaction, but I believe it was an allergic reaction. After I was gluten free for a number of months, those headaches stopped. I still tend to hold my breath a bit when I have to walk down the bread isle in the store. Do you do that?
Despite my reaction, the smell of wheat does not mean there is actually gluten in the air. Gluten does get in the air, though, when people bake. White flour is light enough that is does “go flying” and the small particles hang in the air.
Can flour (and therefore gluten) in the air cause a gluten reaction? I think yes. Here’s why.
For those with celiac disease and gluten sensitivity, gluten causes a reaction in the digestive tract. That means that breathing gluten into your lungs shouldn’t cause a reaction. The problem is that when you breath it in through your mouth and nose, those particles of flour can become trapped in your saliva and mucus and then be swallowed. At that point it enters your digestive system.
That is one reason that I removed all wheat flour from my kitchen and have not baked with it since I went gluten free. In their bulletin, Producing Gluten-Free Products in a Non-Dedicated Kitchen, the Gluten Intolerance Group says that flour can hang in the air up to 24 hours. That’s a long time.
Not long ago my gluten-free son went to a friend’s house. That friend’s mom does a lot of baking. That particular day she had really done a lot of baking. My son didn’t eat anything while he was there. Later that evening and the next morning he had diarrhea, one of his typical reactions. We went over everything he had eaten, and nothing seemed to be questionable. It is likely he was reacting to gluten that got into his digestive tract from the flour that was in the air at his friend’s house.
Another reason that I don’t bake with wheat flour, and don’t recommend that anyone does if there is a gluten-free person in the house (whether it is the baker or not) is that flour in the air eventually settles on surfaces. I’m not saying that it’s impossible to do, but I think it would be very difficult to make sure that flour is always cleaned up from appliances, work surfaces, eating surfaces, etc.
Other Ways Gluten Might Be in the Air
There is no doubt about it when you use aerosol sprays that the substance gets in the air as well as where it was intended to go. I really don’t like aerosols, but for some reason I got hooked on a particular aerosol hair spray that I have used for months. Just the other day I thought to read the ingredients and found that it contains wheat flour lipids. Trust me, I am kicking myself for not checking that sooner.
Consider checking the ingredients on any aerosols or other types of sprays you have.
What do you think? Have you removed all gluten-containing flour (not necessarily products) from your house?