Are Communion Wafers Gluten Free?


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Traditional communion hosts are not gluten free. However, if your religious worship includes communion, there are options to fully participate and remain gluten free.

Many denominations will permit the use of a special gluten-free communion host. There are many brands available. Depending on your church, they may supply the gluten free hosts or you may be asked you to provide them. Other denominations will permit a non-host substitute, a gluten-free cracker or gluten-free bread of some type.

It is important to make sure that the gluten-free communion host is handled properly to avoid cross contact. Some churches have many worshipers who need a gluten-free host and will have a gluten-free communion line. Other churches will keep the single gluten-free communion host separate and ask you to receive communion first or last to ensure you receive that particular host. It is best to sit down with your priest or minister to talk about how gluten-free communion is handled to ensure that you are safe from cross contact.

Many churches receive communion in the form of a host and wine. Where receiving communion wine is an option, this avoids any issues of finding a gluten-free host. But, there are also cross contact concerns to be addressed.

Some religions put a piece of the host in the chalice. Clearly, receiving from this chalice would be a cross contact problem and if it is the only source of communion wine, receiving the wine is not an option. But, often there are multiple chalices and the host is only in one. Therefore, you should make certain that you receive from a chalice that did not contain the host. Some churches offer communion in a shared chalice while others offer individual cups. With a shared chalice, you are at risk of contamination from the other people who have used that chalice.

Another source of cross contact in receiving from the chalice is the practice of intinction. Intinction is the dipping of the communion host into the chalice. This practice is considered more sanitary and encouraged by a lot of churches. For those with celiac, intinction is a method of cross contact. If your church practices intinction, you will need to talk with your priest or minister to develop a means of receiving communion that has not been contaminated by intinction.

Catholics have a unique concern. Cannon Law has requirements for communion wafers. And a part of those requirements is that the wafer contains wheat. For many Catholics, this means skipping the communion host and only receiving communion from the chalice. But, for a lot of families, the idea of giving children wine is an issue. In addition, in the old days only the priest received from the chalice. Even though today it is perfectly acceptable for all Catholics to receive from the chalice, more traditional Catholics may have an issue with skipping the host. That said, receiving communion from the chalice alone is an approved option for Catholics.

For Catholics who do not like the idea of skipping the host or have issues with alcohol, there is a low gluten host option. A Benedictine Sister, who is also a scientist, came up with a way to make a host that satisfies Cannon Law in terms of a host that contains wheat. But the amount of wheat is so low that the final product tests to less than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten. There are several sources for these hosts but you can purchase them directly from the Benedictine Sisters where the host was developed. Click HERE to visit site. Many physicians in the celiac community have said that the amount of gluten is so minimal, that the weekly consumption of a low gluten host should not be an issue for someone with celiac disease.

Just as with a gluten-free host, the low gluten host should be handled carefully to avoid cross contact. And, talking with your priest to determine the best practice is advisable.

On a final note, most churches have a lot of people involved in the preparation and celebration of their services. And a significant number of these people are volunteers. Therefore, it is really important that you understand the practices and procedures that are followed in your church and that you educate all those that could be involved with the worship about your need for gluten-free communion.