There are few foods that have the amount of conflicting information about gluten content as oatmeal does. Usually, a simple search online for something will reveal the answer quickly. However, searching for whether or not oatmeal contains gluten presents you with an abundance of different and conflicting information. One page might say “Oatmeal is fine for celiacs to eat!”, while the next page says “Stay away from oatmeal unless you want to be sick!”. No wonder so many people are confused about this subject.
Here is what Wikipedia says about oats and gluten: “Coeliac, or celiac, disease, is often associated with the ingestion of wheat, or more specifically, a group of proteins labelled prolamines, or more commonly, gluten. Oats lack many of the prolamines found in wheat; however, oats do contain avenin. Avenin is a prolamine that is toxic to the intestinal mucosa of avenin-sensitive individuals, and can trigger a reaction in these coeliacs.”
So, it does look like oatmeal will cause a reaction if consumed by most celiacs. Many of the forums I read about the subject had people confirming that they did in fact have to stay away from oats because it made them sick. Another reason to avoid them besides the reason listed above is that oats are commonly processed near wheat, barley, and other grains, causing them to be contaminated by those glutens as well. The Food and Agriculture Organization officially lists oats as a crop containing gluten.
With that being said, some gluten intolerant people have come forward saying that they eat oatmeal regularly with no problems at all. It seems like oats affect some people pretty severely, and others not at all. People have varying degrees of gluten sensitivity, so it is obviously going to affect people differently. It is better to play it safe and avoid oats altogether if you have celiac disease, because they do cause a reaction in most people.
If oats were a big part of your life before becoming diagnosed with gluten intolerance/sensitivity, there are still options for you. Many health food stores contain GF rolled oats. You can purchase them online from places like Bob’s Red Mill and Amazon if that is more convenient for you. It is better to pay a little more for oats that you KNOW are GF than to play the guessing game with regular oats and risk having a severe reaction. Always better safe than sorry!