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

Before you get intimate, here's what you need to know

man and woman in bed
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If you have celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity, you may be concerned about ingesting hidden gluten, small amounts of gluten invisible to the human eye. Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition where a reaction to gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye, causes damage to your small intestine. Symptoms and gluten-tolerance can vary; however, some people are sensitive to incredibly tiny amounts of gluten.

 

If you are in a relationship or are intimate with another person, you may be worried about being exposed to gluten during moments of intimacy. In some cases, it makes sense to worry. Kissing someone who recently ate a gluten-containing meal, can pass gluten along to you. However, it's unlikely that semen contains any gluten. 

What the Science Says

Gluten is a large protein molecule that is unable to pass through your skin and digestive system. While gluten does not seem to be able to enter semen, it can leave the digestive tract and end up in breast milk. When a nursing mother eats gluten, a tiny amount of gluten can be detected in her milk.

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." Therefore, gluten has a reason for being in breast milk. A reason that does not apply to semen.

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. "Lacking studies," Dr. Leffler concluded, acknowledging that no scientific study has looked at this question. "I would consider [semen] most likely safe from a celiac perspective."

Hidden Gluten Risks Related to Oral Sex

Just because there probably isn't any gluten in your partner's semen doesn't mean oral sex is safe from hidden gluten. If your partner uses a soap that contains gluten, enough of the soap's residue can remain on him for you to have a reaction. This can also occur if he uses a shampoo or conditioner that contains gluten, since, in the shower, suds tend to go everywhere.

If intimacy causes a flare in your symptoms—and you react every time or most times you engage in oral sex—ask your partner to switch to gluten-free shower products as well as gluten-free skin care items. If this does not help solve the problem, talk to your doctor about any other ways gluten might be getting into your system.

Source:

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

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