Can You Get Glutened by Kissing Someone?

couple kissing
Yes, you can get glutened from kissing. Jonathan Knowles/Getty Images

Unfortunately, the answer is yes: If you have celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, you can get glutened by kissing someone who has been eating (or drinking, or applying, or chewing on) something that contains gluten.

That means you can get glutened if you kiss someone who recently:

  • ate a sandwich, pastry or cookie made with one of the three gluten grains (wheat, barley or rye)
  • consumed something made with soy sauce or another gluten-containing sauce (like gravy)
  • ate licorice (most store-bought licorice contains wheat flour) or another gluten-containing candy
  • drank a beer (or, if you're sensitive to alcohol distilled from gluten grains, sipped a whiskey)
  • drank a malted milkshake (or a cookies and cream milkshake)
  • chewed gluten-containing gum
  • used toothpaste or mouthwash that contains gluten
  • wears lipstick or other makeup that contains gluten

You most likely don't want to hear this (there's no doubt it can put a crimp in your romantic life). But it's something you really do have to keep in mind when considering locking lips with someone — if that person's mouth contains any left-over gluten, you'll be ingesting a bit of it too.

This doesn't just apply to romantic partners, either. Be aware that pecking Aunt Edna on the cheek may expose you to her wheat protein-containing makeup foundation, and smooching a little kid who's been eating birthday cupcakes is pretty risky, too (kids just seem to be tiny crumb machines).

Is Gluten from Kissing Really Enough to Make You Sick?

It seems like it wouldn't be, right? But it is. The problem involves how little gluten it actually takes to give you a reaction ... and we're talking microscopic amounts, unfortunately.

If you can taste the gluten-containing food, drink or makeup on your significant other's lips, you can expect to have a reaction (don't ask me know I know this).

Even if you can't taste the gluten, you're risking a reaction if your sweetie ate/drank/used the gluten-containing substance within the last several hours, or longer if you're particularly sensitive.

This isn't just an issue for kisses on the lips — if you plan on kissing someone's face or neck (or even just brushing your lips across their cheek), be aware that you'll ingest any makeup that's used on those places. Lots of makeup (not just lipstick and foundation) contains gluten.

So How Can I Work Around This?

It will take some advance planning ... and full cooperation from the person you'll be kissing, too.

Before any kissing takes place, your partner should brush teeth with a gluten-free toothpaste and rinse well with a gluten-free mouthwash (or even just water). Then floss.

If it's a man who's eating gluten and he has facial hair, he'll need to wash and comb his facial hair before kissing you, since that's another place for crumbs and gluten traces to lurk. If it's a woman and she uses gluten-containing makeup, she'll need to wash her face thoroughly.

Time also helps, in addition to the steps above — try to delay the kissing for a few hours following gluten foods or drinks. 

In committed relationships, it helps to have both partners eat gluten-free (even if it's just for the meal before the kissing) — then there's no risk. 

Now, this obviously kills romantic spontaneity (unless your partner remains gluten-free all the time). But there's unfortunately no way around it unless you want to risk feeling awful the next day. 

Look on the bright side: It's one way you can tell how serious someone is about you. If your potential partner won't take the steps needed to keep you from getting sick, then that person is just not that into you, and it's frankly better you find out now.

(Edited by Jane Anderson)

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