Today we’re going to be answering the question: is maltodextrin gluten-free? And does maltodextrin have gluten in it? If you regularly read nutrition labels, which I’m sure you do if you’re a gluten-intolerant individual, you’ll notice this ingredient in a lot of products you buy. A surprisingly large amount of items contain maltodextrin, which isn’t something I was aware of before my diagnosis. But is it gluten-free?
What Is Maltodextrin?
Maltodextrin comes from plants. Despite this, it’s a highly processed white powder. This powder is usually made from corn, rice, potato starch, or wheat. Although it’s in many foods, the amount is only present in very small amounts. It often thickens up food and increases the shelf life of some foods – which is probably why it’s in so many food and drink items.
It thickens items like sauces and desserts; even some drinks. It makes items more flavorful and sometimes sweeter. You can even find it in baby formula. You may even find it if you take a closer look at the ingredients in your beauty products!
Is There Gluten In Maltodextrin?
As you can see, you’ll find maltodextrin in a wide range of products. The name itself may trigger alarm bells in your mind. It contains the word malt which makes it seem as though it should contain malt itself. Malt is often derived from barley. But there’s no need to worry! Maltodextrin does not contain any gluten; barley malt or otherwise. Maltodextrin is more often from corn than any other type of starch, which we know is gluten-free.
However, it can sometimes be derived from wheat. Oddly, it’s usually gluten-free – even then. During processing, the gluten is often removed – making it completely safe for us. If the maltodextrin does contain any gluten after processing, this must be clearly shown on the label.
This can be quite confusing, but the National Celiac Org says that:
“Regardless of the starting material, maltodextrin is considered gluten-free. Even if wheat or barley is listed as the source, it is highly unlikely that it would cause an otherwise gluten-free food to contain 20 ppm or more gluten”
They also have a whole list of other confusing foods you may come across in your gluten-free lifestyle. It’s definitely worth checking out in the link above.
Although maltodextrin is gluten-free and safe for many of us, it can cause problems for some. Usually, those having to follow a gluten-free diet. This can just be at the beginning of your diagnosis when you’re still healing – or it can be long-term.
Celiac.com states that:
“For some people with celiac disease, especially those who are still in the process of healing the gut, gluten-free additives, like maltodextrin, can sometimes cause discomfort.”
Processed foods are often a trigger for those of us following this diet, so it may be best to remove it from your diet at the beginning, just to give your body a chance to heal. Then try to re-introduce your diet and see how your body reacts. If you’re still getting a reaction, you’re likely allergic/intolerant to it.
The symptoms usually present themselves in a very similar way to when you have a gluten reaction. It will mainly cause gastrointestinal symptoms such as:
- Gurgling stomach
Read more about: Is Yeast Extract Gluten-Free?
Although those are the main symptoms, it can also cause skin irritations like rashes and itching. It’s important to note that if you experience shortness of breath after consuming maltodextrin, it’s likely you’re experiencing a severe allergic reaction and should seek medical help immediately.
Benefits Of Maltodextrin
There are many benefits of using this in everyday products. Here’s just a few:
- Often improves the texture and taste of food/drinks
- Improves the shelf life of products
- It’s a rapid source of energy
- It’s usually inexpensive
Dangers Of Maltodextrin
Although it has a range of benefits, it can cause problems if eaten in excess.
- Gut Problems – it increases the “bad bacteria” in your gut and can lead to problems such as digestive issues and auto-immune disorders
- Diabetes – as it raises your blood sugars rapidly, it can be very dangerous for those with diabetes or insulin-resistant
- It’s high in sugar and highly processed. This can lead to weight gain and cholesterol issues
- GM corn is used to make maltodextrin. These can be bad for your health and can cause problems such as allergies and organ damage. That is why many people are now choosing to open for a GMO-free diet. It’s much harder to follow this diet than you might think!
- It lacks any nutritional value and is bad for metabolism
Although there are several downsides, it’s usually in the tastiest foods! So as long as you don’t have a severe allergic reaction to maltodextrin – you should definitely treat yourself! I certainly do. This diet is already difficult enough to follow, so we have to find our treats somehow.
To conclude, maltodextrin is almost always gluten-free and safe for us to consume. Even though maltodextrin, even derived from wheat, is unlikely to contain more than 20ppm of gluten, it’s always best to check. And opt for products labelled gluten-free to be certain of it’s safety, if you can.
Many celiac/gluten-intolerant individuals struggle to tolerate maltodextrin too. So if you start your gluten-free lifestyle and are still struggling, it may be worth trying to cut it out – or at least cut down on the volume you’re having.
I think as time goes by, the use of maltodextrin will decrease. The world is becoming more environmentally friendly and trying to make alternatives to highly processed foods. This would make life easier for us – and healthier for us all.
Take a look in your pantry (or your bathroom!). Which products are you surprised to see in there that contain maltodextrin? Were you aware of it’s benefits/potential issues it could cause? Please leave comments below.