Can You Get Glutened by Kissing Someone?

If you have celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, you can get "glutened" by kissing someone who has been eating, drinking, applying, or chewing something that contains gluten. The severity of your reaction to gluten—a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye—will determine how diligent you need to be when interacting with others.

couple kissing
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This doesn't just apply to romantic partners, either. A quick peck on the cheek may expose you gluten. Other ways you can get glutened is by kissing someone who:

  • Ate a meal containing gluten 
  • Had a drink or alcoholic beverage containing gluten 
  • Has a beard or mustache gluten gets stuck in
  • Wore lipstick or other makeup containing gluten

Essentially, if a person's mouth contains any left-over gluten, you'll be ingesting a bit of it too.

Is Gluten From Kissing Really Enough to Make You Sick?

Whether or not you'll be affected by secondhand gluten depends on how sensitive you are to gluten. For many people, microscopic amounts are enough to cause a reaction, unfortunately.

Even tasting the gluten-containing food, drink or makeup on your significant other's lips, you can expect to have a reaction. You're still at risk if your partner ate, drank, or used a gluten-containing substance within the last several hours whether you taste it or not.

This isn't just an issue for kissing on the lips—if you plan on kissing someone's face or neck (or even just brushing your lips across their cheek), you may want to ask if they are wearing makeup or foundation. Lots of makeup, not just lipstick and foundation, contains gluten. If you can't be sure you aren't exposing yourself to gluten, don't risk it.

Minimizing Your Risk of Secondhand Gluten Exposure

Before any kissing takes place, your partner should brush teeth with a gluten-free toothpaste and rinse well with a gluten-free mouthwash and 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 crumbs and traces of gluten can lurk. If your partner is a woman and she uses gluten-containing makeup, she'll need to wash her face thoroughly.

In addition to the steps above, time also helps. If you can, try and delay any intimacy for a few hours following gluten-filled foods or drinks.

If you are sensitive to gluten, it's important to explain to your partner the potential ramifications of eating gluten, even trace amounts. If your partner or potential partner won't take the steps necessary to keep you from getting sick, they might not be the best person for you and your health.

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  1. Cohen IS, Day AS, Shaoul R. Gluten in Celiac Disease-More or LessRambam Maimonides Med J. 2019;10(1):e0007. doi:10.5041/RMMJ.10360

  2. Thompson T, Grace T. Gluten in cosmetics: is there a reason for concern? J Acad Nutr Diet. 2012;112(9):1316-1323. doi:10.1016/j.jand.2012.07.011