Can you get “glutened” from kissing?

Lips
Photo: Angela Mombourquette

by Charmaine Dymond

My husband leans in for a kiss, but before he can make contact, I ruin the mood with “When did you last eat gluten? Are you safe?”

That’s the reality of life with celiac when your loved ones eat gluten. It’s not just about reading labels and worrying about cross contamination in your kitchen. It’s also about trying to avoid ingesting the leftover crumbs from your spouse’s sandwich.

Sometimes I wonder if I’m being too cautious. Can you really get “glutened” from kissing? Is it safe to kiss someone who’s eaten gluten? Sue Newell, operations manager at the Canadian Celiac Association, says, like so many things, it depends.

“The goal is to not transfer gluten crumbs from one person to the other. A kiss on the cheek or the lips is not going to be a problem unless the person has a whole lot of visible crumbs,” says Newell.

If the object of your affections has a mouth full of crumbs, Newell says to ask them to rinse their mouth. “A swish with water that you then swallow will be enough for most people. If you are planning a more serious romantic interlude, it would reasonable to ask the gluten eater to brush their teeth.”

I usually judge the safeness of a kiss on how long it’s been since my husband has eaten gluten and if he’s had much to drink since then. But Newell says the amount of time is not really important. It’s more to do with the type of mouth the person has: some of us have a lot of places where food can get stuck. “If they have gaps and pockets that collect gluten, then brushing is the quickest way to clean things up,” she says.

(I’m feeling really glad I’m married. This would make an interesting topic of conversation on a first date!)

Newell says she’s had people ask about using beer to rinse their mouths. Her advice? “It works, and it contains a much lower amount of gluten to pass back and forth. Beer doesn’t clump in your mouth like wheat crumbs do, but if possible, a non-gluten beverage is preferred.”

Looks like I’ll have to keep ruining the mood. But I figure it’s a small price to pay to avoid suffering the consequences of sharing any leftover bits of my husband’s lunch.

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