How to Handle Holy Communion With a Wheat Allergy

Receiving Holy Communion is an important part of Christianity, as it is meant as a remembrance of Jesus Christ. However, the communion wafers used as the Holy Sacrament contain wheat, which can pose a problem for individuals who have a wheat allergy or Celiac disease

communion wafer
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Taking Christian Holy Communion If You Have a Wheat Allergy or Celiac Disease

Taking Christian Holy Communion if you have a wheat allergy depends in part on your denomination and in part on your church's willingness to work with you. Most Protestant denominations view Communion as a symbolic part of worship. Individual churches vary, but no mainstream Protestant denomination demands the use of wheat in communion wafers as a matter of doctrine or dogma.

As such, individuals with wheat allergies have come up with solutions ranging from choosing to avoid wheat-containing pieces of bread and taking wine only to bringing an appropriate wheat-free substitute (such as a small piece of gluten-free bread) for Communion.

In churches where small cups of juice or wine are offered, it may also be possible to take Communion without taking bread. Talk to your minister for guidance on what is considered most respectful in your congregation.

Roman Catholicism

However, Roman Catholicism views the principle of transubstantiation as an integral part of the liturgy. The church also forbids, as a matter of doctrine, the use of hosts that are completely wheat-free. Two alternatives do exist for Catholics who wish to receive Communion despite wheat allergies or Celiac disease.

One is to receive Communion in the form of consecrated wine only. Catholic teaching states that Communion received in this form is entirely valid. However, do be aware of the possibility of cross-contamination as the wheat-containing host is dipped in the chalice during consecration or through other parishioners' drinking wine after having consumed the host. Many priests will be happy to set aside a separate chalice of wine for parishioners who need to abstain from wheat, and this is a safe option.

Another option, though somewhat controversial, is to use low-gluten wafers that have been approved by the Catholic Church for use by Catholics with Celiac disease. These wafers are made with a minute amount of wheat starch and thereby meet church requirements for gluten in the host.

However, the question of whether these wafers are safe for people with Celiac or those with wheat allergies or gluten sensitivities is a matter of dispute. Many organizations recommend strict abstinence from all gluten-containing products while others say it is safe to consume very small amounts (10-50 parts per million per day).

However, these wafers meet the European Codex Alimentarius definition for gluten-free because of their ultra-low gluten content. Your allergist or gastroenterologist can advise you on whether such wafers are safe for your diet.

1 Source
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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

By Victoria Groce
Victoria Groce is a medical writer living with celiac disease who specializes in writing about dietary management of food allergies.