Is dimenhydrinate gluten free?

Dimenhydrinate is an over-the-counter medication used to prevent and treat motion sickness, nausea, and dizziness. It is sold under various brand names such as Dramamine, Gravol, and Travel-Eze. Many people wonder if dimenhydrinate contains gluten, especially those with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

What is Dimenhydrinate?

Dimenhydrinate is an antihistamine that blocks the action of histamine in the body. Histamine is a chemical released by the body during an allergic reaction. It causes many of the annoying symptoms of allergies, such as a runny nose, watery eyes, and hives.

Dimenhydrinate is classified as an H1-antihistamine because it blocks the H1 histamine receptor in the body. This helps reduce or eliminate motion sickness symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and dizziness.

Besides its antihistamine properties, dimenhydrinate also has anticholinergic effects. Anticholinergics block the action of acetylcholine in the body. Acetylcholine is involved in the transmission of nerve impulses. Blocking its effects can reduce nausea, vomiting, and dizziness.

Is Dimenhydrinate Gluten-Free?

The simple answer is yes, dimenhydrinate is gluten-free.

Dimenhydrinate is made up of two active ingredients – diphenhydramine and 8-chlorotheophylline. Neither of these contain any gluten sources.

Diphenhydramine is an antihistamine derived synthetically from ethanol and 2-dimethylaminoethanol. 8-chlorotheophylline is a chlorinated derivative of theophylline, which is naturally found in tea leaves.

The inactive ingredients in dimenhydrinate vary depending on the specific brand or generic formulation. However, they typically include lactose monohydrate, magnesium stearate, pregelatinized starch, and sodium starch glycolate.

None of the common inactive ingredients contain gluten either. Lactose is derived from milk. Magnesium stearate is a mineral salt. Pregelatinized starch and sodium starch glycolate are modified starches usually derived from corn, potato, or rice.

So in summary, neither the active nor inactive ingredients in dimenhydrinate contain gluten. Leading health organizations like the Celiac Disease Foundation confirm dimenhydrinate is gluten-free and safe for people with celiac disease.

Why People Are Concerned About Gluten in Dimenhydrinate

There are a few reasons why some people are concerned that dimenhydrinate may contain gluten:

  • Confusion with similar names – Dimenhydrinate is often confused with diphenhydramine, the antihistamine found in Benadryl. While dimenhydrinate is gluten-free, some forms of diphenhydramine (e.g. Benadryl cream) do contain wheat ingredients.
  • Filler ingredients – Some inactive pill fillers like starch may be derived from wheat rather than corn or rice. However, dimenhydrinate manufacturers use non-gluten sources.
  • Cross-contamination – There is a small chance of cross-contamination during manufacturing if equipment is shared with gluten-containing products. However, allergen protocols make this very unlikely.

While these are valid concerns, large dimenhydrinate manufacturers adhere to strict allergen and gluten-free production protocols. All equipment and facilities are thoroughly cleaned to prevent any cross-contamination.

Testing for Gluten in Dimenhydrinate

To provide extra assurance their products are gluten-free, some dimenhydrinate manufacturers test them for any traces of gluten:

  • ELISA Testing – This lab test uses antibodies to detect gluten. The test can accurately detect levels as low as 5-10 parts per million.
  • PCR Testing – PCR testing amplifies DNA sequences to detect the presence of gluten. It provides quantitative results down to 1 part per million sensitivity.
  • Mass Spectrometry – Mass spec is one of the most precise analytical methods. It can detect the unique “fingerprints” of gluten proteins at less than 1 part per million.

These highly sensitive gluten detection techniques would pick up even minute traces of cross-contamination. The fact that dimenhydrinate routinely tests below gluten detection levels provides assurance of its gluten-free status.

Certifications for Gluten-Free Dimenhydrinate

For further confirmation, many dimenhydrinate brands also carry certifications from reputable gluten-free organizations:

  • Gluten-Free Certification Organization (GFCO) – This program, managed by GFCO, requires testing to 10 parts per million of gluten or less.
  • National Celiac Association Recognition Seal – This seal signifies testing to 5 ppm or lower plus annual manufacturing audits by the NCA.
  • Coeliac UK Crossed Grain Symbol – Coeliac UK certifies products to contain less than 20 parts per million of gluten after rigorous testing.

Earning gluten-free certification requires companies to follow strict standards and quality control processes. The certification logos on dimenhydrinate packages offer reassurance to gluten-sensitive consumers.

Should You Check with Your Dimenhydrinate Manufacturer?

Even with testing data, certifications, and confirmation from celiac foundations, some people with celiac disease or on a gluten-free diet prefer to check directly with the manufacturer of their dimenhydrinate brand regarding gluten content.

Most manufacturers provide a phone number or email address on their website to contact for questions about products. Their customer service teams are equipped to provide specifics about testing results, certifications, and procedures to prevent gluten cross-contact in their facilities.

Contacting your dimenhydrinate brand’s manufacturer directly enables you to get information straight from the source. This extra step can provide additional peace of mind if you have concerns about trace gluten content.

What If You React to Dimenhydrinate Despite It Being Gluten-Free?

While quite rare, some individuals report reacting to dimenhydrinate even though it tests as gluten-free. There are a few potential reasons this can occur:

  • Other allergies – It’s possible to have an allergy or sensitivity to other ingredients in dimenhydrinate besides gluten. For example, allergies to lactose or dyes used in the pills.
  • Nocebo effect – This refers to experiencing side effects because you expect to have a reaction, even though the drug itself is not causing it.
  • Extreme sensitivity – In very rare cases, an extremely high sensitivity may allow trace reactions at levels below testing detection limits.
  • Outside contamination – There is a slight chance of outside contamination if storing dimenhydrinate improperly near gluten products.

If you repeatedly react to dimenhydrinate that is certified gluten-free, consult your doctor. Stop taking the medication and investigate other potential causes like additional intolerances or nocebo effects. Or switch brands in case your body is responding to something specific to one manufacturer.

Precautions When Taking Dimenhydrinate If Gluten-Free

Here are some suggested precautions if you have celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity and want to take dimenhydrinate that is tested as gluten-free:

  • Check for certifications from GFCO, NCA, or Coeliac UK on your chosen product.
  • Call the manufacturer to confirm gluten testing protocols and procedures.
  • Take dimenhydrinate with food to minimize any potential stomach upset.
  • Start with a low dose to gauge your individual tolerance.
  • Check bottles for damage, expiration, and potential outside contaminants before ingesting.

Being proactive helps ensure you select reliably gluten-free dimenhydrinate from a reputable manufacturer. Starting carefully at a low dose can minimize any problems even if you have high sensitivity.

Alternatives If You Need to Avoid Dimenhydrinate Entirely

For those unable to tolerate dimenhydrinate, even when following a gluten-free diet, some alternatives include:

  • Scopolamine – This is available as a transdermal patch placed on the skin to prevent motion sickness.
  • Promethazine – Another antihistamine, promethazine comes as pills or rectal suppositories.
  • Ondansetron – Ondansetron blocks serotonin receptors to control nausea and vomiting.
  • Ginger – Natural ginger root capsules may ease nausea, especially when taken preventatively.
  • Acupressure – Wrist acupressure bands apply pressure to help relieve motion sickness nausea.

While not necessarily as strong as dimenhydrinate, these alternatives can help control nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and other motion sickness symptoms. Discuss options with your doctor to find the most suitable anti-nausea treatment.

The Bottom Line

In summary, dimenhydrinate is clearly gluten-free according to manufacturer disclosures, third-party testing, and major celiac organizations. Make sure to double check your specific brand, and take precautions around storage and dosage.

For those highly sensitive, alternatives like scopolamine, promethazine, and ginger may be better options to consider. But for most people needing motion sickness relief, dimenhydrinate represents a safe and effective gluten-free choice.

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