Low gluten Catholic communion Host
It all started on Easter—the Christian celebration of Jesus Christ’s resurrection—after someone inquired about the communion wafers, and a pastor said that their communion host contained low gluten. A low gluten Catholic communion wafers? “That’s not good,” I thought. He was the pastor who earlier in his sermon said that just as the snowman melted, after Lent also sin and sadness have melted. Lent is the 40-day period before Easter, right after Mardi Gras, a time of reflection and repentance. The pastor said that some rituals of Easter dates back to paganism, others to Judaism, such as the use of eggs. Though the exact origin of Easter, no one knows, perhaps it is to welcome spring and fertility, or is it the true significance of Passover, Pascua the Spanish word for Easter. Going back to the pastor, kidding he said that there was nothing original of the Catholic Church; some customs “were borrowed from our Jewish brothers.” Perhaps the communion is original to the Catholic Church, where confession of sins brings a clean slate followed by the communion, of course, all based on individual belief. But what happens if you can’t take the communion host?
Abstaining from a Catholic communion
However, when it was time for many to take the communion, some could not. Many people now are abstaining from foods that contain gluten, such as wheat. Some are abstaining from gluten for better health, others for performance, or just because it is a “fad diet.” But for many it goes beyond better health and athletic performance, their life depends on following a gluten-free diet. A near gluten-free host, or “Low Gluten Altar Bread,” communion host might not be safe for those with celiac disease, or those who have a gluten intolerance–all that flashed through my mind. But not knowing what “Low Gluten” was got me curious besides concerned. A low gluten host contains less than 0.01% of gluten. Is that safe for everyone? I don’t know.
Gluten intolerance keeps many around the world from ingesting anything made with gluten. In the USA, it is believed that 2 million people have celiac disease, but don’t know it. Celiac disease is a genetic disorder. It is aggravated by the consumption of gluten. Consuming those foods, even in small amounts, destroys the “villi on the lining” in their small intestine. It creates havoc beyond intestinal problems. Small kids could have stunt growth. People with celiac disease if not managed with diet, could have nutrient deficiencies due to poor assimilation. Due to lack of nutrient assimilation people developed all types of health problems such as anemia, nutrient deficiencies, severe weight loss, etcetera. Even cancer is a risk for those with celiac disease. Gluten containing foods are those foods that are made with barley, rye, and wheat and other derivatives of those three grains. Oats technically has no gluten, but it could be cross-contaminated with wheat.
The alternative to gluten Host
Some options given are to take the wine instead of the host. However, many are not willing to drink the wine from a communal glass. Other options are to bring your gluten-free unleavened bread.
“The Benedictine Sisters have been producing low gluten hosts in a dedicated gluten-free, wheat-free facility,” wrote Cesar Hernandez, the father of two children, one with celiac and the another with wheat allergies.
The Catholic Church will not do a 100% gluten-free communion host for those with celiac disease since they are firm about the host having wheat as the original ingredient in the bread Jesus used. However, as mentioned above, the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in Clyde, Missouri, developed during ten years a Communion host that is very low in gluten–less than 0.01% of gluten, they claim.
Alessio Fasano, MD,–Chief, Division of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition at Massachusetts General Hospital–in 1993 “published a study that showed the lowest level of gluten that produced a visible change in the biopsies of celiac volunteers was 100 milligrams of gliadin (equal to 200 milligrams of gluten) a day,” wrote Dr. Barbara Coughlin, who is also celiac. “Some experts have extrapolated from that to state that the maximum amount of gluten a celiac should ingest in a day is 10 milligrams.”
Technically one would think that the amount on the “low gluten” bread is safe. However, no one knows if it’s safe to consume even an extremely low amount. Whichever options are available at your parish, or congregation since Catholics are not the only ones that use communion bread, it’s worth inquiring and investigating about the host, especially if you have celiac disease. The final decision to use or not to consume the low gluten bread should be a personal one made between each person and their physician.
Untitled Document [www.catholicceliacs.org], http://www.catholicceliacs.org/Options.html (accessed April 7, 2015).