Finding Gluten in Medications and Cosmetics

By Jenny Stegen | November 11, 2020

prescription pill bottles

Do Your Medications Contain Gluten?

Similar to food products, medication manufacturers must follow strict labeling rules and regulations. Unlike food products, however, medication labels are not required to clearly report sources of wheat and gluten. Thus, you need to learn how to identify and look for gluten in your medications.

The FDA claims that the vast majority of drugs contain no gluten or not enough gluten to be harmful to patients with celiac disease. Even though the risk is low, medications can still be a sneaky source of gluten.

Good news - there is work currently being done to get legislation passed that would require identification and reporting of gluten in medications. More information on the bill, called the Gluten in Medicine Disclosure Act of 2019, can be found here.

Here are the steps you can take to ensure your medications are safe:

  • Let your pharmacist know your prescriptions need to be gluten free. They will note this in your record.
  • The pharmacist is your best resource for finding out if a medication contains gluten.
  • Check the package insert for your prescriptions which must always contain a list of active and inactive ingredients. Gluten in medications is most often used as a binder or filler and will be listed under the inactive ingredients as wheat starch or modified wheat starch. Thankfully, most drugs use starch that is derived from corn or potatoes - not wheat.
  • The drug database DailyMed also has all of the labeling information you will find in the package insert. Just do a search for your drug, scroll to the bottom and you will find the section called “ingredients”. Click this and you will see all of the active and inactive ingredients in that drug. Not all drugs are listed in the database. It is a work in progress.
  • For over-the-counter meds, you will find a list of ingredients on the label. Once again, look for wheat starch of modified wheat starch under the inactive ingredients.
  • If in doubt, call the manufacturer. The contact information can be found on the packaging label or insert.
variety of beauty products

What about Cosmetics and Personal Care Products?

Remember, lotions, soaps, hair products, deodorants, and most make-up products are not a concern unless they get into your mouth. Swallowing gluten is the problem - not applying it topically. It can't cause intestinal damage by soaking through the skin - it has to go through the digestive tract.

Products such as toothpaste that get close to your mouth need to be gluten free. When selecting toothpaste and dental care products you will find helpful information at There’s a good chance what you are already using is safe.

You will find excellent information on gluten free chapstick brands here and gluten free cosmetics here.

Remember - if in doubt, call the manufacturer whose contact information is always listed on the package.

Most of our problems will be caused by food or drinks containing gluten. Medications and personal care products are a rare source of trouble, but still important to consider them as a potential source of gluten exposure.

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