Cross Reaction: Should Celiacs Drink Coffee?

Can coffee be mistaken for gluten?

Cross reaction is a term that many celiacs may be familiar with, especially if you haven’t completely healed on your strict gluten free diet. Perhaps you were diagnosed as celiac and started to feel a little better but you still have a bunch of symptoms and still don’t feel like yourself. It’s possible you have developed further food intolerances but what if the cause is a result of cross reaction? What if your immune system thinks that some non-gluten things ARE gluten? Then you would still have a gluten response, still get symptoms and still feel like crap!

The idea of cross reaction in relation to celiacs not completely healing seems to be coming up more and more in recent months and has intensified in the last few day as the gluten free community has been throwing around the idea that celiacs possibly shouldn’t be drinking coffee. Don’t be ridiculous, you may be thinking. Coffee can’t possibly contain gluten! This was my first reaction too and we’re right of course, coffee doesn’t contain gluten but if you’re celiac then you’re body may mistakenly think that it does!

An article published last year by Dr. David Clark states that recent research reveals that 10% of coffee is a protein which cross reacts with gluten antibodies. This means that some celiacs may have an immune response to coffee similar as they would with gluten. How terrifying yet fascinating! Our immune systems are clearly very confused as am I. Whilst there is clearly something to it, I’m not completely sure whether or not I can get behind all of this cross reaction stuff quite yet. I’ll need more research and concrete evidence before I start ruling out things I know to be naturally gluten free.

What are your thoughts on all of this? Are there certain gluten free foods that your body cross reacts with? Would this stop you drinking coffee? And what will be the next thing they discover contains proteins which may react with gluten antibodies. If our bodies can think that coffee is gluten what else could they mistaken for this evil, damaging protein? Is anything completely safe?

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  • That is my biggest concern…what else? So far it seems like only one doctor has claimed this. I like the IDEA of cross-reaction, as it could be a possible explanation for what is going on with me. However, it makes me wonder what other items cross-react? We already cut out so many things. And since there is no EASY way to validate this claim, it’s really hard to go along with it. I’ll do another stint without coffee to see if I feel any better. But if my next blood test is still off the charts and I notice no physical improvement, it will be back on the menu. Then again, if my blood work is FINE, it’s really hard to say that it is because I cut out coffee. There are so many other possibilities and factors. I find this disease incredibly frustrating.

  • I love my coffee! I don’t think I have a reaction to coffee, but this is really interesting to read about. I used get really bad vertigo after drinking coffee about ten years ago. I finally realized my vanilla flavoring had gluten in it!

  • About a year ago my symptoms got really bad and I started removing foods from my diet. Gluten was first and coffee about a month later. My pain doctor was the one who recommended giving up coffee because it promotes inflammation.

    After giving it up I realized that coffee masks a bunch of symptoms like fatigue, headache, etc. and without my daily triple latte I get a more accurate picture of my health. The best part is when I do everything right and have just as much energy if not more than when I drank coffee all day long. Also I can tell much sooner when things are not right and fix them before they become larger problems.

  • I agree with you, Caliactivist in that I definitely like the idea of cross reaction in the sense that it could explain why so many celiacs aren’t completing healing on a gluten free diet. The scary part about cross reaction though is that it suggests our bodies could at any time have a reaction to something it mistakes as gluten. How can we know if a reaction is the result of accidentally eaten gluten or whether it’s our body cross reacting with something totally different and gluten free. Fascinating yet terrifying. I look forward to more research on this subject..

  • I cannot imagine a world in which I don’t wake up to a big huge tall glass of iced coffee goodness, and I have celiac. It doesn’t surprise me that bodies with issues of gluten mistake the protein for gluten. Now what to do?? I don’t think I have a reactio to coffee but now I will be aware. Thanks for the article.

    @Erin- I never connected my vertigo symptoms to celiac directly. I should have known better, I guess, but with so much possible it seems best to assume everything is connected to it.

  • I think “article published last year” by a “doctor” implies that this was a peer-reviewed article in a medical journal. Really, this is some “internal,” not peer-reviewed work by one chiropractor. If he is right, others will be able to replicate the work and it will eventually get published somewhere reputable. But for now, I am not at all worried about this. And I certainly wouldn’t spend money to have a test done at the one lab he is pitching. (I was an Internal Medicine physician for seven years before changing careers; was recently diagnosed with Celiac.)