Gluten-Free Substitutes For Foods, Medicines, and Beauty Products

Knowing where gluten is hiding is three-fourths of the battle when you are cutting gluten from your diet. Of course, you’ll be ditching the obvious gluten-laden foods like breads, noodles, gravy, cakes, cookies, etc, but did you know that bouillon cubes have gluten in them? What about Pepto Bismol and Advil? No kidding! We have found gluten in some of the most unexpected places, and this is what TOTALLY undermines the efforts of those who need to maintain a zero-gluten lifestyle due to gluten intolerance and autoimmune issues.

Don’t let gluten sneak into your shopping cart!

Buyer Beware: Some companies issue statements that their products are “naturally gluten free” or they “do not have gluten present in their recipes,” but this is absolutely NOT an assurance that their product is gluten free. In fact, most of these companies include a statement that they DO NOT test for the presence of gluten AND their products are manufactured in a facility that also processes items that contain gluten. What this means to gluten sensitive families is that cross contamination is strong possibility.


Communion Wafers

This is one item that you may not even think of as “food” because it is not being served at the table but rather as part of a religious service; however the unleavened bread that is typically used for communion wafers contains wheat.

Bouillon Cubes

We recently ate at a place with a wonderful gluten-free menu where we have often eaten successfully, but this time we got “glutened.” I feel certain that it was from the sauce on the Steak Marsala, which is typically made with beef stock. I’m guessing the kitchen used beef bouillon to make it. (We let the manager know that this gluten-free dish had been contaminated, but it wasn’t until later that I had enough wits about me to realize the most likely source of the gluten was the Marsala sauce.)

Seasoning Packets

Gravy Mixes

Cream of Chicken, Mushroom, etc, Soups

Unfortunately, most canned soups (both creamy and plain broth soups) contain gluten, but we use a great “make at home” alternative for cream of chicken type soups.


Be aware that some cereals SEEM like they would be gluten-free but aren’t because they have MALT added to them. For instance, the original Kellogg’s brand Rice Krispies and Frosted Flakes both contain gluten because they have malt in their recipe; however Kellogg’s does produce a special gluten-free version so look for those. They are packaged with a totally different look in order to avoid confusion.

Special Note regarding Gluten-Free Cheerios and Lucky Charms: The Gluten Free Watchdog, a gluten testing organization, recommends that individuals with Celiac Disease and other gluten-related disorders do not eat these two products until the manufacturer improves their gluten testing method. (Our family has tried the Gluten-Free Cheerios on several occasions and found that they did, indeed, cause issues. Your mileage may vary.)

Soy Sauce

Unfortunately, this means that almost all Chinese food is off limits – unless you cook it at home. From what I have read, all La Choy Brand foods are gluten-free, but we use Coconut Aminos due to a soy allergy.

Salad Dressings

Many of the brands sold in our area do not test for the presence of gluten AND their products are manufactured in a facility that also processes items containing gluten. What this means to gluten sensitive families is that cross contamination is a strong possibility. Don’t be fooled by the “Naturally Gluten Free” comments on these products. Always look for “Certified Gluten Free.”


This is a super sneaky one! Oatmeal doesn’t naturally contain gluten, but because farmers grow oats and wheat in the same field in alternating seasons, leftover wheat seed will sometimes spring up and grow along with the oats. When the oats are harvested, the wheat that sprang up is included in the harvest, and this accidental contamination is a major problem! Look for oat products that say “Certified Gluten Free.” These oats are either grown in fields that do not grow wheat in the alternating season OR they are rigorously tested for gluten contamination at the processing facility.

  • Bob’s Red Mill, Gluten Free, Old Fashioned Rolled Oats:  Amazon | Walmart
  • Quaker, Gluten Free Oats, Old Fashioned:  Amazon | Walmart
  • Quaker Instant Oatmeal, Gluten Free:  Amazon | Walmart
  • Quaker Instant Oatmeal, Gluten Free, Maple & Brown Sugar:  Amazon | Walmart

Worcestershire Sauce

Rice Krispie Treats

Rice Krispie treats are also a sneaky hideout for gluten, because rice doesn’t naturally have gluten, but Kellogg’s adds malt for flavoring – and malt has gluten in it. No worries, though, because these Crunchy Rice Rollers are GREAT substitutes!

Panko Bread Crumbs

One of the best workarounds we have discovered is using crushed Chex Cereal in place of Panko Bread Crumbs. Try this Gluten-Free Chicken Nugget Recipe using this method!


It shouldn’t be this hard to identify which meds contain gluten and which ones don’t, but we have learned that, just because wheat or gluten isn’t noted on the label, does not mean it is gluten-free. Lately, we are seeing more “store” brands print “Gluten Free” on their labels (i.e., Equate, CVS, Walgreens), but the big name brands have been slow to adapt to the needs of the gluten intolerant population. Always read the label and if you have any doubt, ask for a consultation with the pharmacist. Our local Walgreens pharmacist has been super helpful!

Pepto Bismol Liquid

When you have persistent tummy problems, bismuth is one medicine you need to keep on hand! But from what I have read, the makers of Pepto Bismol do not guarantee their product to be gluten-free. Here are the workarounds we use:

Advil (Ibuprofen)

From what I have read, some Advil products used to contain wheat but they have recently removed that ingredient; however the manufacturer still is not willing to state that their products are gluten-free, so we have stopped using those and buy these instead:

Tylenol (Acetaminophen)

This is another company that is not willing to state that their products are gluten-free, so we have stopped using their products. Here are the workarounds we use.

Beauty Products

We were well into our gluten-free lifestyle before we FINALLY started checking the labels of our shampoo and conditioner products, and we found that a lot of those products contained gluten, as well. I guess that explains the skin problems we were having! The same was true of makeup and several other products. This is such a broad area, I won’t bother making recommendations, other than to say … Check the labels of all health and beauty aids!

We’ll be adding more items to this list as we have time and inspiration!
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