Do Paper Straws Actually Contain Gluten?

There's a pervasive rumor going around that new biodegradable straws may contain gluten — and those with celiac disease are alarmed. For a person with celiac disease, gluten is no joke. Those who have this autoimmune disease can experience a commercial's worth of digestive complaints: nausea, indigestion, diarrhea, constipation, bloating, and abdominal pain. 

The Mayo Clinic also reports that celiac patients may have other symptoms including anemia, fatigue, joint pain, bone problems, and headaches. Most of these problems are triggered by ingesting gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye — when those with celiac disease consume gluten, their body attacks cells that line the stomach and small intestine, which leads to an inability to absorb nutrients.

So when rumors had it that stores were switching to pasta-based straws or eco-friendly straws that otherwise contained some trace of gluten, people began to worry. And some of this worry extended to the popular paper straws in many markets.

There are many different eco-straws to choose from

Dieticians at the National Celiac Association want you to know that paper straws should be safe, but straws made from wheat and pasta should definitely be avoided. Another type of biodegradable straw is the compostable plastic common at chains like Starbucks. The Florida Times-Union shares how these plastic lookalikes are made from a "canola oil-based biopolymer." There's definitely some ambiguity, though, and those who have a medical need to avoid gluten simply may not want to risk it. 

Instead, consider some different eco-friendly alternatives to the plastic straw and just bring your own if you need to avoid gluten. A great choice is a bamboo or stainless steel straw, and there are also many reusable hard plastic or silicone options too. Avoid the guessing game that may lead to pain and discomfort later by controlling the materials you drink out of so you don't have to choose between your health and the environment.