Is Ensure OK for celiac disease?

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that affects around 1% of people worldwide. It causes damage to the small intestine when gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye, is consumed. The only treatment for celiac disease is following a strict gluten-free diet, which means avoiding foods and drinks containing gluten. This can be challenging, as gluten is found in many commonly consumed foods and drinks. Many people with celiac disease struggle to get adequate nutrition on a gluten-free diet, as they have to cut out nutrient-rich gluten containing grains. This is where nutritional shakes like Ensure can help supplement nutrition, but an important question is – is Ensure gluten-free and safe for people with celiac disease?

What is Ensure?

Ensure is a nutritional shake made by Abbott Nutrition to provide balanced nutrition in a drinkable formula. It contains a mix of proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals. The intent is to provide nutrition for people who struggle to get adequate nutrients from food alone, such as the elderly and ill. Ensure comes in various formulas such as Ensure Original, Ensure Plus, Ensure Enlive, Ensure Max Protein and Ensure High Protein. It is available in ready-to-drink bottles and cans, or as a powder to mix with water or milk.

Is Ensure Gluten-Free?

The key question for those with celiac disease is – does Ensure contain gluten? According to Abbott Nutrition, its range of Ensure products are labeled gluten-free, meaning they contain less than 20 parts per million of gluten. This level of gluten is considered safe for the vast majority of those with celiac disease. Abbott states that Ensure is made without any ingredients containing gluten, like wheat, barley, rye and malt. The gluten-free status applies to all the ready-to-drink and powder formulas.

So in summary, yes Ensure is gluten-free to a level considered safe for celiac disease according to current labeling laws. Always check the label to confirm the gluten-free status when purchasing Ensure products.

Are the Ingredients in Ensure OK for Celiac Disease?

To understand if Ensure is truly safe for celiac disease, we need to look at the ingredients labels on the various products.

Here are the key ingredients found in Ensure beverages:

– Water
– Milk or soy protein isolate
– Sugar
– Canola oil
– Corn maltodextrin
– A range of vitamins and minerals

The ingredients will vary slightly between formulas, but are generally based on the list above. None of these ingredients contain gluten, making Ensure suitable for a gluten-free diet.

Soy protein isolate, used in dairy-free versions of Ensure, is a highly refined form of soy with gluten removed. Corn maltodextrin is also gluten-free. These specialized ingredients make it possible for Ensure to be gluten-free while still having high protein and a smooth texture.

Risk of Cross-Contamination

While the ingredients may be gluten-free, there is always the risk of cross-contamination with gluten during manufacturing. This could occur if a shared facility also processes gluten-containing foods. According to Abbott Nutrition’s website, they follow rigorous quality control to avoid cross-contamination of their gluten-free products. The company states:

“We manufacture our gluten-free products using dedicated equipment in separate facilities to avoid cross-contamination. We also conduct extensive testing of our gluten-free products for potential gluten cross-contamination. This allows us to ensure our gluten-free products have gluten levels below 20 ppm.”

So while cross-contamination can never be 100% ruled out, Abbott Nutrition tries to mitigate this risk with separate facilities and extensive testing. The very low gluten levels reported in Ensure products indicate cross-contamination is well controlled.


Abbott Nutrition’s website states its Ensure products are certified by the Gluten-Free Certification Organization (GFCO). The GFCO is a program run by the non-profit Gluten Intolerance Group that audits and certifies food products to be compliant with FDA gluten-free labeling regulations. GFCO certification provides added assurance that Ensure follows gluten-free manufacturing practices with regular third-party audits.

Some celiac disease support groups, like the Celiac Support Association, recommend choosing GFCO certified products when possible as they have strict standards. The celiac community generally considers GFCO certification a mark of quality when it comes to gluten-free claims.

User Reviews

In addition to official certifications and manufacturer processes, it is helpful to look at the experiences of people with celiac disease who have consumed Ensure. User reviews can provide real-world data on whether people had issues with Ensure causing gluten reactions or celiac symptoms.

Here are some reviews from users with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity who consumed Ensure:

Sarah K. says:
“I have been drinking Ensure Clear for years with no issues. It really helps when I need extra calories but can’t stomach solid food. I have very severe celiac disease and am extremely sensitive, but Ensure has been great.”

Mark T. says:
“Ensure protein shakes are my go-to when I need a meal replacement that I can tolerate. I have tried every flavor with celiac and have never had any problems. It gives me the calories I need in those times I just can’t eat because of my condition.”

Emily C. says:
“I rely heavily on Ensure to get extra calories and nutrients, especially during celiac flares when I have trouble eating. The pre-made drinks are so convenient when I can’t handle preparing food. It does not seem to aggravate my celiac at all.”

The majority of user reviews from those with celiac disease report no issues when consuming Ensure. Of course, there is always individual variability in how sensitive someone is to gluten cross-contamination. But most people with celiac disease seem to tolerate Ensure without problems.

Contacting Abbott About Ingredients

For those who are especially sensitive to gluten, it may be worth directly contacting Abbott Nutrition to ask about the gluten-free status of Ensure. You can call their consumer hotline or submit a contact form on their website.

Here are some questions to consider asking:

– Do you test every batch of Ensure for gluten and can you provide recent test results?
– Are all Ensure products produced in dedicated gluten-free facilities or do some facilities also process gluten?
– What protocols are in place to prevent cross-contamination during manufacturing?
– Can you provide more details on your GFCO certification for Ensure?

Getting detailed information directly from Abbott can offer reassurance about the steps taken to avoid gluten in Ensure. Some people also report contacting consumer hotlines for various brands to inquire about gluten testing before feeling comfortable consuming the product.

Trying a Small Amount First

When trying any new product with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, it can be wise to test a small amount at first. Consume a few ounces of Ensure and wait 48 hours to check if any celiac symptoms develop. If no issues arise, larger amounts can be consumed safely. This gradual introduction may provide more confidence in tolerating Ensure long-term.

Some nutritionists also advise rotating gluten-free products, including shakes like Ensure, to avoid overexposure to potential sources of trace gluten. For example, using Ensure for a period of time, then switching to a different brand, and later returning to Ensure. This may further minimize any risk from cross-contamination.

What Experts Say on Ensure and Celiac Disease

Overall, most reputable experts and organizations consider Ensure gluten-free and safe for people with celiac disease based on its ingredients and manufacturing processes:

– The Celiac Disease Foundation states that Ensure nutrition shakes do not contain gluten and are safe for the gluten-free diet.

– The Gluten Intolerance Group’s dietitians advise that Ensure products are a good celiac-safe nutritional supplement option.

– The Cleveland Clinic includes Ensure on its list of suggested gluten-free food brands.

– Dietitians from the Stanford Celiac Center recommend Ensure to patients as a gluten-free supplement shake.

– Nutritionists from Mass General Hospital’s Celiac Center list Ensure as an approved gluten-free meal replacement shake.

So major gluten and celiac disease groups generally consider Ensure a safe bet based on Abbott Nutrition’s rigorous gluten-free manufacturing policies and GFCO certification. But as with any product, individual experiences may vary.

Alternatives to Ensure for Celiac Disease

For those who are still uncertain about Ensure, there are some alternative supplement shakes specifically developed for the gluten-free market:

– Kate Farms: All formulas are certified gluten-free to under 5 ppm. Produced in a dedicated facility.

– GlutenAid: Facility and equipment are certified gluten-free. Tested to under 5 ppm gluten.

– BFree Foods: Specializes in celiac-friendly foods. Gluten tested to less than 10 ppm.

– Glutino: Extensive gluten testing with certification under 20 ppm. Marked gluten-free.

– Orgain: Certified gluten-free ready-to-drink shakes, made in gluten-free facility.

While pricier, these brands may offer added peace of mind for more sensitive individuals. Some facilities are certified at under 5 or 10 ppm gluten versus the 20 ppm cutoff. But Ensure still remains a well-tolerated shake for the majority of those with celiac.

The Bottom Line

Based on its ingredients, manufacturing protocols and certifications, Ensure can be considered gluten-free and safe for most people with celiac disease. Extremely sensitive individuals may prefer shakes made in dedicated gluten-free facilities, but for most, Ensure provides vital nutrition without issues. Anyone newly diagnosed or during symptomatic flares should check with their healthcare provider on integrating Ensure into a gluten-free diet. With proper consultation and evaluation of individual factors, Ensure can be a beneficial supplement for many living with celiac disease.

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