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Can I Take Christian Holy Communion If I Have a Wheat Allergy or Celiac Disease?


Updated January 31, 2008

Question: Can I Take Christian Holy Communion If I Have a Wheat Allergy or Celiac Disease?

The answer 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, celiacs[/link"> and those with wheat allergies have come up with solutions ranging from choosing to avoid wheat-containing breads 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.

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 celiacs or those with wheat allergies is a matter of dispute. Many United States celiac organizations recommend strict abstinence from all gluten-containing products; 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 these wafers are safe for your diet.

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  4. Common Food Allergies
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  6. Communion and Wheat - Communion and Wheat Allergy - Communion and Celiac Disease

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