Coeliac & Oats: Clarifying the Confusion

Coeliac & Oats: Clarifying the Confusion

Coeliac & Oats: Clarifying the Confusion

Are oats gluten free? That’s a question I’m always being asked at our Farmers Markets, so when I found this blog that dietician and nutritionist Marika Day had written to clarify the confusion about coeliac and oats, gluten-free oats and uncontaminated oats, I just knew we had to share it with you (with Marika’s blessing).

Brushwoods oats are not gluten free, they are not uncontaminated and they are not organic.  We don’t pretend that they are any of those things.  If you are blessed to be able to have oats in your diet we would love you to try Brushwoods Fresh Oats simply because they are bloody good!!  If you are not so lucky, we’re sorry, but you can still benefit from the goodness of oats in our natural soaps

If you find this article particularly helpful, jump on and follow Marika on Insta (@marikaday) or FB (marikadaynutrition) or jump on her website to subscribe to her newsletters. Marika Day is a dietician and nutritionist but most of all she is an advocate for bullsh*t free nutrition and cutting through the confusion in the health and fitness industry.  She reads books and nutrition research like her life depends on it, her blood is part coffee part green smoothie and she believes carbs are one of the finer things in life.  

I hope you enjoy the read.




Coeliac & Oats: Clarifying the Confusion

By Marika Day

When it comes to coeliac disease and the gluten free diet, this is the most frequently asked question I get. How can I eat oats when I am a coeliac or how does one find out if they can? I figured now was the perfect time to answer this question as we near the end of Coeliac Awareness Week for 2018. For those who are confused, you are not alone – it is confusing. Keep reading.

What is Gluten?

Gluten is the protein component of wheat, rye, barley and oats. The ‘gluten’ protein in oats is a slightly different protein to that found in wheat, rye and barely. Oats will never be truely ‘gluten free’ even if labelled as so from other countries as they do contain a gluten protein.

In Australia:

  • Oats or any product containing oats are not labelled as gluten free ever, it would be illegal for a company to do this.
  • People diagnosed with Coeliac Disease are informed to not eat oats or any products containing oats at all.

However, because the gluten protein differs slightly in oats it has been found that only 1 in 5 people with Coeliac Disease react to oats in the way they do wheat, rye and barely (causing intestinal damage). This means 4 out of 5 people with Coeliac Disease can generally tolerate pure, uncontaminated oats.

The problem comes when deciphering those who react from those who don’t. There is no simple test, no blood test to tell us and while we think we would know based on our apparent or lack of symptoms, there can still be intestinal damage occurring without symptoms.

Because of this difficulty in knowing who may react and who won’t the Australian Food Regulators have said a total ZERO to oats in a gluten free diet. In comparison the UK and USA have said pure, uncontaminated oats are gluten free and disregard that 1 in 5 who is going to experience intestinal damage. So that is why you may find ‘gluten free oats’ overseas or online. They are just letting that 1 in 5 suffer.

How did I find out that I can tolerate oats and how can you do the same?

To find out if you can tolerate pure, uncontaminated oats (aka if you are one of the 4 out of 5) you need to go through a testing phase. This is not as simple as it sounds.

Firstly, you will need to have a healthy small intestine biopsy to confirm that any damage you had prior to being diagnosed as a coeliac has resolved from your strict gluten free diet you should have been following. For most people this can take up to 12 months of following a strict gluten free diet.

Once you have a healthy biopsy you can now start the challenge. Introduce pure, uncontaminated oats into your diet. It is recommended that you have about 50g per day for at least 8 weeks. At the end of the 8 weeks you will need to head back to your gastroenterologist for a follow up small bowel biopsy (yes you need to go into hospital twice to do this process!)

If your second biopsy comes back healthy and clear – you are free to eat pure, uncontaminated oats! Yay! If not, sorry you are the unlucky 1 in 5. Stop eating oats immediately.

Unfortunately this is the ONLY way to know if you are the 1 in 5 who reacts. Scientists out there I’d love it if you could develop a simple test to see if there is any bowel damage from avenin (the gluten protein in oats).

Remember just because you don’t experience gut symptoms doesn’t mean you aren’t doing damage. You need to follow up and check!

What does pure and uncontaminated mean?

Most oats, especially Australian oats, are grown on farms that also rotate crops with other gluten containing grains like wheat or barley. Oats are also usually processed in factories that are heavily contaminated by other gluten containing grains. Most of the machinery is also used for processing and packaging these gluten containing grains. Because of the small amount of gluten required to trigger intestinal damage in a coeliac, any oats that have been produced on a farm or in a facility like this will not be suitable for any coeliac, not even the 4 out of 5 that can tolerate oats.

Pure, uncontaminated oats on the other hand are sometimes labelled as ‘wheat free’ because they have been produced on farms that don’t rotate crops with other gluten containing grains and have independent gluten free facilities for processing and packaging. Making them suitable for those 4 out of 5 coeliacs who can tolerate pure uncontaminated oats.

Unfortunately, pure, uncontaminated oats are bloody difficult to find in Australia and even more expensive. In the USA and EU you will have a lot more success as their rules differ. Note: I always bring back a few kilos every time I make the trip over.

I’ve included a few links below where I have purchased my oats in the past, these aren’t affiliated in any way just want you guys to have some options.

  • MyProtein – online store
  • Bobs Red Mill Wheat-Free Oats – I’ve found these at IGA stores or health food stores
  • Gloriously Free Oats – Found in health food stores or can purchase online.

Gluten Intolerant Vs Coeliac Disease:

If you are gluten intolerant and not coeliac most oats will be fine. The small amount that may be found in the oats on the Australian market is not likely to be significant enough to trigger a reaction. Eat whatever brand oats you like (I’m jealous – you can buy cheap oats!)

I hope that answers a few questions for you all. If you are a newly diagnosed Coeliac and struggling to find your feet please book in for a consultation with me and we can go over everything you need to know about a gluten free diet. More details here.

If you found this article helpful, I’d appreciate it if you shared it with your friends and family or on social media.

Marika xx


Do you understand your oats?

Do you understand your oats?

Do you understand your oats?

You may believe an oat is an oat and the nutrition you are giving your body will be the same regardless of the type. This is a common misconception as the way the oat is processed means there is different levels of oat ‘completeness’ and how the oat affects your blood sugar will differ. When the oat is picked in its least processed form after the hull has been removed is called a groat or whole oat. The groats are then processed further and comes out with different varieties:

  1. Quick/Instant Oats

Starting with the variety which is most processed and as a result has a high glycaemic index (GI) at 82 These oats are milled from steel cut oats/groats which have been chopped up into flakes. Be careful with this variety as there are brands which add additional ingredients which may spike your blood sugar further by adding additional sugar. You can check for added sugar in the ingredients or look under total carbohydrates and there should be none. Half a cup of dry instant oats will give you around 627kJ, 3g of total fat, 27g of total carbohydrates, 4g of fibre and 5g of protein.

  1. Rolled Oats

A classic favourite which sits at a medium GI of 57. These are groats which are steamed and then finally rolled to produce flakes. Half a cup of a serving of whole grains will give your body around 795kJ, 7g of protein, 3.5g of fat, 32g of total carbohydrate and 5g of fibre.

  1. Steel cut oats

These are simply groats which have been cut into smaller flakes and sit at the lowest GI of 42-52. Scottish oats differ simply that they are stone ground rather than cut using a blade. These oats work perfectly in salads, soups or pilaffs as a replacement for pearl barley. Half a cup of steel cut oats will give you 1422kJ, 6 g fat, 58g of total carbohydrate, 10g of fibre, 14g of protein,


Nutrients all varieties of oats give your body include soluble fibre which can help maintain healthy cholesterol levels by binding to the cholesterol in your body and dragging it out. Also, B vitamins essential to create energy from the food you eat, vitamin E a fat-soluble vitamin and acts as an antioxidant, iron needed to help transport oxygen around your body and zinc needed for immune support. The amount of these vitamins and fibre decreases with the processing of the oat.

If you add milk or any other ingredient like nuts and seeds or fruit to your breakfast or smoothie this will affect how the meal or snack will affect your blood sugar so it’s important to look at the whole composition of the food you are eating.

Take home message: Oats, regardless of their form offer a delicious and nutritious snack or meal choice. There is no added sugar in this whole grain unlike many other cereal products and this is itself deserves a round of applause. If you want long lasting energy over a short burst try selecting the less processed oats like steel-cut oats, Scottish oats or traditional rolled oats over the quick oats.



Author: Asheligh Feltham – Feed Your Future Dietitics

Ashleigh is an Accredited Practising Dietitian and owner of Feed Your Future Dietetics. She holds
a Master of Nutrition and Dietetics and a Bachelor of Human Nutrition. Ashleigh is also a qualified
personal trainer and group fitness instructor and has been working in the fitness industry for over 10
years. Ashleigh was an elite gymnast as well as an elite rock climber where she represented Australia for
four years. She believes everyone deserves to live a life of health and wellness. Ashleigh
passionate about helping people achieve their highest quality of life through nutrition, mental
health and exercise. For more information see or follow her
on Instagram or Facebook @FeedYourFutureDietetics.