Is It Possible for a Man's Semen to Contain Gluten?

man and woman in bed
Can there be gluten in semen?. Cultura RM/Emely/Getty Images

Question: Can there be gluten in a man's semen if he regularly eats gluten-containing foods?

Answer: Probably not, which is no doubt a relief to women with celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity who enjoy certain types of intimacy with their partners. But since it is very possible to get glutened by kissing someone, it's understandable that this question would come up.

Gluten in Semen: No Studies

So far, there do not seem to have been any scientific attempts to find out whether small amounts of any gluten a man eats can end up in his semen.

Now, you might be thinking, "Gluten is a large protein molecule that can't pass through skin, so it can't get out of your digestive system — how could it wind up in someone's semen?"

In fact, in at least one situation, gluten does leave the digestive tract and end up in another bodily fluid: breast milk. When a nursing mother eats gluten, a tiny amount of gluten can be detected in her milk. So this question about semen isn't as far-fetched as you might think.

What Do the Experts Say?

Dr. Dan Leffler, an instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School and director of Clinical Research for The Celiac Disease Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, says without definitive studies on gluten in semen, there's no easy answer ... but there's probably no reason to worry, either.

"My best guess is no," there isn't gluten in semen, "at least not in significant quantities," Dr. Leffler said.

"Breast milk is a special case, as dietary proteins are probably brought there specifically to help train the infant immune system." So gluten has a reason for being in breast milk, and that same reason doesn't apply to semen, he said.

In addition, the testes — which make a man's semen — tend to prevent any stray protein molecules from entering, which would in turn prevent them from being included in semen, he said.

Dr. Leffler acknowledged that no scientific study has been done to look at this question. "Lacking studies," he concluded, "I would consider this most likely safe from a celiac perspective."

Possible Gluten Sources from Oral Sex

So if gluten doesn't get into semen, is it possible to get glutened from engaging in oral sex with your partner?

Yes, unfortunately it is possible. If your partner uses a soap that contains gluten, then enough of that soap residue can remain on him for you to react. This even can occur if he uses a shampoo or conditioner that contains gluten, since in the shower, suds tend to go everywhere.

If this seems to be a problem for you — you react every time or most times you're intimate in this way with your partner — then switching to all gluten-free shower products (and skin care products, if he uses them) could help solve the problem.

(Edited by Jane Anderson)


Leffler, Dan. E-mail interviews. February 23 and 25, 2009.

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