Posted by Bridget, Citizens’ Advocacy Representative
Working as a Citizens’ Advocacy Representative at Tom’s of Maine, I spend a good chunk of my workday talking directly to our consumers about our product line. One question we continue to get with increased frequency is whether or not our personal care products contain gluten.
The good news is that the majority of current product line does not contain any gluten at all. All of natural toothpastes are gluten-free. All of our mouthwash, bar soap and dental floss are too. Even our deodorants, including those with “odor fighting hops” are all gluten-free. Why? Well, it turns out that while beer is made with hops, and beer contains gluten, hops themselves are not gluten.
So what is gluten? And what is the deal with gluten-free?
With respect to November being Gluten-free Awareness Month, I decided to turn to our locally-owned independent health food store for answers. Sheila and Paul Ouellette opened New Morning Natural Foods in Biddeford, Maine, right around the same time that Tom and Kate were starting to manufacture their natural toothpaste one town south in Kennebunk. New Morning now has a second location right across the river from our corporate office, where they carry natural foods and products ranging from organic produce to bulk herbs. One classification they are starting to see more and more on their shelves? Gluten-free.
Sheila explained to me that to put it simply, gluten is the protein in wheat. Or the protein in any type of grain, actually. It helps bread to rise, and give it its stretchiness. Sheila said that the most known form of gluten intolerance is Celiac disease, a disease where an allergy to gluten results in an intestinal inflammation.
“Where that term comes from is the celia inside the intestine actually gets rubbed away,” Sheila explained. “Those are the fine hairs inside the intestine that digest food.”
People who suffer from the disease cannot properly absorb nutrients a result. An adjusted diet is the only known effective solution. But not everyone who goes gluten-free necessarily suffers from Celiac. Some are just gluten-intolerant.
Says Sheila, “When people don’t feel good, you’ve got to start someplace, and clearly you should start with what you put in your mouth.”
The result is that more and more people are turning to a gluten-free lifestyle. And in response to demand, more and more gluten-free products – including gluten free personal care – are hitting store shelves. Even larger, conventional stores now take special care to carry these product options.
When Sheila and Paul first opened their doors in the seventies, the only customers looking for gluten-free were those suffering from Celiac, and the only products they were looking for, was food.
“They just couldn’t eat good-looking bread and regular pasta!” Sheila laughed.
Now, consumers are looking for gluten free personal care products like toothpaste as well.
“That’s a new avenue in some respect,” Sheila said. “It’s growing. All you need to do is look at the shelves in the store and see!”
Does your family live gluten-free? What is your advice for those just getting started on this diet and lifestyle?