Mention Easter, and most people think of chocolate eggs and hot cross buns. But if you’re on the spectrum of gluten sensitivities, and you don’t want to miss out on the treats, it’s also a time for extra caution. Read on to learn how to stay safe from gluten at Easter!
Most plain chocolates are gluten-free, thank goodness, but watch out for ingredients that may contain gluten, such as biscuit pieces or wafers. Check online for suppliers and stockists near you. Ask about manufacturing practices such as separate preparation areas if you’re highly sensitive to gluten. Quality chocolate makers, such as Australia’s 100-year-old Haigh’s Chocolates, list gluten-free (by ingredient) products on their websites.
Gluten-free hot cross buns are readily available from major supermarket chains and some specialist bakeries. If you’re a keen baker or simply feeling adventurous, you could try making your own.
Easter is also the most important event on the Christian calendar. Every year, Easter services around Australia attract around four million Christians, some of whom don’t attend church any other time. Many will mark the occasion by taking communion, accepting a sip of wine and a small portion of communion bread or wafer consecrated by the minister.
Unfortunately for those on gluten-free diets, a traditional wheat-based communion wafer contains around one milligram of gluten.* That’s enough to cause symptoms in highly-sensitive people. And that tiny amount has even been known to prevent the recovery of the intestinal lining in coeliac individuals.*
Fortunately it’s often possible to reconcile your religious beliefs with your need to stay gluten-free.
Ask for gluten-free or low-gluten wafers
If you’re planning to attend an Easter service, ask if they provide gluten-free communion wafers. Many churches now offer these as a matter of course. If you’re Catholic, you’ll need to ask about low-gluten wafers, as the Catholic Church does not approve of gluten-free communion wafers.
Gluten-free communion wafers can be ordered online. In Australia, all gluten-free foods must have less than five parts per million (ppm) gluten, the lowest level detectable in laboratory tests.
Coeliac Australia only recommends gluten-free communion wafers. As an alternative, they suggest making a spiritual Communion without wine or communion wafers.
For people whose religious convictions may lead them to consume low-gluten wafers, Coeliac Australia recommends seeing your doctor first for medical advice. They also provide tips on how to avoid further gluten contamination, such as separate storage of gluten-free wafers.
Be very careful if you’re looking for low-gluten communion wafers online. While some have less than 10 ppm gluten, others may legally contain as much as 200 ppm, even in Australia. This usually means low-gluten foods are not suitable for most people on the broad spectrum of gluten sensitivities.
Enjoy your Easter celebrations, and be careful to avoid gluten. Remember to take GluteGuard whenever you’re not sure if that food you’re about to eat really is gluten-free!
* Biagi, F. et al. (2004) Nutrition Reviews, 62:9, 360–363