Gluten-free Food Service and Restaurant Guide

The food service industry is exploding with gluten-free options as more and more restaurants are trying to meet the needs of people with gluten-related disorders. How well are they doing? What questions should you be asking? And how do you know if your gluten-free diet is truly gluten-free or if it has suffered from cross-contamination?

What’s the Big Deal about Cross-contamination?

When you take a blood test revealing positive antibodies to any of the pieces of poorly digested wheat, you now for the rest of your life have a Memory B cell for that piece of wheat. Forever. You’ve crossed the line, and from this point on, every time you ingest (or inhale) gluten, your body will trigger an immune response.

When you’re completely gluten-free and then get exposure to wheat, general gluten is turned on and your body will begin to produce antibodies to fight wheat. This can happen after eating something seemingly harmless, like a slice of cake at a birthday party. The symptoms of gluten sensitivity may be so slight that they go completely undetected by you.

Let me repeat that. You may not feel the symptoms at the time you eat gluten. Some people immediately feel the effects, but autoimmunity can affect any part of your body. For you, gluten sensitivity may be silently having bad effects on your pancreas or your brain or your joints. Without testing, you won’t know that these antibodies are being launched within.

The chain reaction ignited by that slice of cake to begin antibody production won’t stop if you stop eating gluten the next day. Once that assembly line gets turned on, it stays on for anywhere from four to six weeks, making more and more antibodies to wheat. The antibodies that you make have a lifespan of anywhere from one to two months, sometimes more than two months. This means that within 24 hours, one exposure to wheat can cause you to have elevated antibodies for at least three months, sometimes longer – from one exposure.

How Does Gluten-free Food Become Contaminated?

If you have been diagnosed or suspect a gluten-related disorder, the number one step in treatment is avoiding exposure to gluten. This means that when you take a gluten-free bag of fries and sink it into the same oil that you used to fry breaded onion rings, those fries are now contaminated.

Cross-contamination can happen at any stage of the process in the food service industry, rendering your gluten-free foods “glutened.”

Common ways foods become cross-contaminated

  • Cooking on a shared space (countertop, breadboard, oven, pan) with foods that contain gluten.
  • Handling foods containing gluten then touching gluten-free foods.
  • Processing gluten-free grains in facilities that also process grains containing gluten.
  • Trace gluten left behind on dishes and silverware (or on the cabinets and trays) that were previously used by someone who ate food containing gluten.
  • Double-dipping into jars (ie. spreading peanut butter on bread, then returning to put more on as the sandwich is being made. Then a person with a gluten-related disorder uses that same peanut butter unaware.)
  • Foods containing gluten are nearby and trace amounts become airborne (like flour).

Locating Gluten-free Options in the Food Industry

It has become increasingly easier to locate gluten-free options in the food service industry, whether that is at your nearby grocery store or local restaurants. While labels that don’t list gluten or wheat may seem safe, if the product doesn’t specifically state “gluten-free” on the label, assume it’s not.

There are strict standards in place for being able to label a product as “gluten-free.” Since gluten-free products tend to be slightly more expensive than their alternatives, it would benefit them to make the claim. If they don’t, assume there is potential cross-contamination that prevents them from making that claim.

There are also specialty stores in the food service industry that are actively seeking to meet the demands of people with special dietary needs.

Thrive Market is an online supermarket where you can filter what you see by over 70 diets and values, including gluten-free, keto, paleo, and vegan. They carry over 6,000 organic and non-GMO products, including non-toxic health and beauty products, household cleaning products, and food. They offer a membership subscription service that allows you to order in advance, and they deliver the products directly to your door.

While searching for gluten-free foods in the food industry, Thrive Market can help you make socially conscious decisions, from sustainable sourcing to fair trade practices. You can easily select the products that are healthy for you and the planet. Membership also gives you exclusive access to over 500 Thrive Market brand products.

In addition to locating gluten-free sources in grocery stores (online and within your community), there are also apps for your phone that can guide you to nearby restaurants that offer gluten-free menu options. Always be cautious about restaurants who claim to have gluten-free options because it is often hard to guarantee no cross-contamination.

The Restaurant Study

While restaurants are actively seeking to capture the gluten-free clientele, this is an area that has been a source of frustration for people with gluten-related disorders. A recent study published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology proves many people’s suspicions may be justified.

The study provided 804 people with a Nima Gluten Sensor that can detect small amounts of gluten at levels <20 parts per million (ppm). The people in the study lived throughout the United States. Over a period of 18 months, they collected a total of over 5,600 samples. They looked at foods listed as gluten-free in restaurants, citing geographical differences, differences between meals, and types of restaurants. So, how bold are restaurants’ gluten-free claims?

The results were shocking. Of the 5,600+ samples, almost one-third came back as containing gluten. 27.2% of “gluten-free” breakfast items tested in the study came back as containing gluten. Dinner came in at 34%, with pizza and pasta coming in at skyrocketing numbers. Gluten-free pasta dishes in restaurants contained gluten 50.8% of the time, and gluten-free pizza served in restaurants contained detectable gluten 53.2% of the time.

The study hopes that people with gluten-related disorders like celiac disease will be able to use the information gathered in this study to help guide them in making informed decisions when eating gluten-free meals at restaurants.  The Study

What is a Nima Gluten Sensor

The Nima Gluten Sensor is a portable device that consumers can purchase to prevent accidental ingestion of gluten. It can be used at home or at a restaurant. This provides an additional safeguard in knowing before you take that bite whether or not it is safe to eat.

How does it work? It’s simple!

  1. Fill a disposable capsule with a pea sized amount of food. As contamination may not be uniform in the meal, you will want to take small samples from around the plate. The capsule can hold approximately 250mg of food.
  2. Screw the test capsule shut. When you screw the capsule shut, you are grinding the food. Mixing it up helps to test the food.
  3. Place the capsule in the sensor and click it into place. Press start.

Voila! Now you just wait to get a clear reading. A smiley face indicates that it did not detect gluten. If you are at a restaurant and you receive an allergen symbol, however, let the waitstaff know. If you receive a No result, you had a test error. Generally this indicates that you overfilled the capsule, or it was not mixed enough.

A Quick Guide on Questions To Ask When Ordering Gluten-free at a Restaurant

Your heart can sink a little when you ask a waiter or waitress, “Do you have gluten-free options?” and they give you a perplexed look like, “What?!” It does not exactly instill confidence.

Hot tip from an old pro: Sometimes it is best to go straight to the manager on duty.

Gluten-free training is a top-down need at a restaurant, and the questions you ask them can better guide them in training their entire staff – from the kitchen to the waitstaff. It also helps to inform them of considerations they may never have thought of.

For instance, some well intentioned (but ill informed) restaurants will offer a substitute bun or wrap to a meal whose ingredients are not gluten-free. The consumer may assume that the sandwich is now gluten-free, not knowing the specific ingredients used; however, sometimes it is clearly not. No wrap in the world is going to change the breaded chicken sandwich smothered in soy sauce and topped with onion strings into a gluten-free meal, unless all of the ingredients are in fact devoid of gluten.

Here are some questions to guide you when ordering gluten-free foods at a restaurant.

  1. Do you have a certified gluten-free menu?
  2. Where are the meals created?
  3. Is there a dedicated fryer for gluten-free foods?
  4. Is there a separate workspace designated solely for gluten-free preparation?
  5. Is there a separate kitchen where the food is cooked?
  6. Who will be handling your food?
  7. Do they change gloves between handling foods with and without gluten?

Additional Support to Safeguard You Against Hidden Gluten

There is a window of opportunity before the antibodies get triggered. It is within 60 – 90 minutes after you begin eating. This is how long it takes for the gluten to reach the duodenum. As your food exits the stomach, the first section of the small intestines is called your duodenum. It is here that if the gluten remains undigested, and you have already had a loss of oral tolerance, and are now creating antibodies that your body triggers the autoimmune response.

Humans do not have the necessary enzyme needed to fully break down the proteins found in wheat, specifically gliadin and glutenin. This is the gluten that so many people identify as a trigger for their autoimmune conditions. As it reaches that duodenum in the partially digested state, people with gluten intolerance are affected.

I had known about this problem for a while, and I was excited when I finally had a formulation that addressed this issue – E3 Advanced Plus. This product is shown to produce 99% digestion of all 8 major antigens (wheat, dairy, soy, egg, nuts, fish, hemp, pea) within 90 minutes.

The enzymes, prebiotics, and probiotics in E3 Advanced Plus break down the gluten proteins into small di, tri, and free form peptides before they reach that critical point of the small intestines. By the time they reach here, they are in an immunologically unrecognizable state – preventing the activation of the autoimmune response.

We also recently added an alternative called WheatRescue. WheatRescue uses a combination of probiotic spores and yeast to support intestinal barrier function and help restore diversity in your microbiome. It also is designed to break down gluten proteins within the 60 to 90 minute timeframe.

Gluten-free Has Improved in Food Service

Finding gluten-free options within the food service industry is easier and has greatly improved over the past decade with education and increasing consumer demand. Supports are more widely available to help people with gluten-related disorders follow the recommended and necessary treatment of a strict gluten-free diet.

By using some of those tools, it positions you to both prevent further damage and potentially improve your intestinal health.

Scroll to Top

Get the latest articles, podcasts, special offers, and more...

By submitting this form, you’re agreeing to receive messages from Your email address will NEVER be shared or sold. You’re always free to easily unsubscribe at any time.

Coriolus Versicolor

Coriolus Versicolor, a remarkable mushroom, is esteemed for its potential to contribute to overall wellness. Known for its immune-supporting properties, Coriolus Versicolor may help strengthen the body’s natural defenses. This extraordinary mushroom has also been associated with promoting healthy energy levels, supporting digestion, and fostering vitality.

Fo Ti

Fo Ti, a revered Chinese herb also known as He Shou Wu, is valued for its potential to support overall wellness. Traditionally used for promoting vitality and longevity, Fo Ti may contribute to maintaining healthy energy levels, cognitive function, and immune system performance. This remarkable herb has also been associated with supporting liver and kidney health, as well as fostering a sense of overall balance


Agave, a versatile desert plant native to the Americas, is recognized for its potential to support overall wellness. Rich in natural fibers and low-glycemic sweeteners, Agave may contribute to maintaining healthy blood sugar levels, digestive health, and providing a natural alternative to refined sugars.

Maral Root

Maral Root, a potent adaptogenic herb native to Siberia, is celebrated for its potential to contribute to overall well-being. Known for helping the body manage stress and maintain balance, Maral Root may also promote healthy energy levels, endurance, and cognitive function. This exceptional herb has been associated with supporting the immune system, fostering vitality, and enhancing physical performance.

  • Antioxidant and DNA Repair Stimulating Effect of Extracts from Transformed and Normal Roots of Rhaponticum carthamoides against Induced Oxidative Stress and DNA Damage in CHO Cells:


NotoGinseng, a distinct variety of Panax ginseng native to the Changbai Mountains, is esteemed for its potential to contribute to overall well-being. Renowned for its adaptogenic properties, Noto Ginseng may help the body manage stress and maintain balance. This exceptional herb has been linked to supporting cognitive function, promoting healthy energy levels, and boosting immune system performance.


Baicalin, a potent bioflavonoid derived from the Scutellaria baicalensis plant, is appreciated for its potential to promote overall wellness. With its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, Baicalin may help protect cells from oxidative stress and maintain a balanced response to inflammation. This remarkable compound has been associated with supporting liver health, promoting cardiovascular function, and fostering a sense of vitality.

Purple Lapacho

Purple Lapacho, a unique and potent herb, is valued for its potential to support overall well-being. Known for its immune-boosting properties, Purple Lapacho may help fortify the body’s natural defenses. This remarkable herb has also been associated with promoting healthy energy levels, supporting digestion, and fostering vitality.

Holy Basil

Holy Basil has been found to protect organs and tissues against chemical stress from industrial pollutants and heavy metals, and physical stress from prolonged physical exertion. It has also been shown to counter metabolic stress through normalization of blood glucose, blood pressure and lipid levels.


Ashwagandha, a revered adaptogenic herb, is acclaimed for its potential to support overall well-being. Known for helping the body manage stress and maintain balance, Ashwagandha may also contribute to healthy energy levels and mental clarity. This remarkable herb has been associated with promoting relaxation, supporting the immune system, and fostering vitality.


Guarana, a powerful plant, is celebrated for its potential to support overall wellness. Rich in natural caffeine, Guarana may help promote mental alertness, focus, and healthy energy levels. This remarkable plant has also been associated with supporting endurance and enhancing physical performance.


Catuaba, a potent herb, is appreciated for its potential to contribute to overall well-being. Known for its adaptogenic qualities, Catuaba may help the body cope with stress and maintain balance. This remarkable herb has also been associated with promoting mental alertness, healthy energy levels, and fostering a sense of vitality.

Reishi Mushroom

Reishi Mushroom, a highly-regarded fungus, is esteemed for its potential to enhance overall wellness. With adaptogenic properties, Reishi Mushroom may help the body manage stress and maintain balance. This extraordinary mushroom has also been linked to promoting immune system support, healthy energy levels, and fostering a sense of calm and relaxation.

Astragalus Root

Astragalus Root, a powerful herb, is respected for its potential to contribute to overall well-being. Renowned for its immune-supporting properties, Astragalus Root may help fortify the body’s natural defenses. Additionally, this remarkable root has been associated with promoting healthy energy levels, heart health, and supporting the body’s ability to adapt to stress.

Asian Licorice Root

Asian Licorice Root, a versatile herb, is valued for its potential to support overall wellness. Known for its adaptogenic properties, it may help the body cope with stress and maintain balance. This remarkable root has also been linked to promoting healthy digestion, respiratory function, and supporting the immune system.

American Ginseng

American Ginseng, a revered herb, is prized for its potential to contribute to overall well-being. With adaptogenic properties, it may assist the body in managing stress and maintaining harmony. American Ginseng has also been associated with promoting mental alertness, healthy energy levels, and supporting the immune system.

Rhodiola Rosea

Rhodiola Rosea, a robust herb, is admired for its potential to support overall wellness. As an adaptogen, Rhodiola Rosea may help the body cope with stress and maintain balance. This remarkable herb has been linked to promoting mental clarity, healthy energy levels, and increased endurance.

Peruvian Maca

Peruvian Maca, a nutrient-packed root, is celebrated for its potential to enhance overall well-being. Known for its adaptogenic qualities, Maca may help the body manage stress and maintain balance. This powerful root has also been associated with promoting healthy energy levels, endurance, and supporting hormonal balance.

Schisandra Fruit

Schisandra Fruit, a unique berry, is renowned for its potential to contribute to overall wellness. Boasting adaptogenic properties, it may help the body adapt to stress and maintain equilibrium. Schisandra Fruit has also been linked to promoting healthy energy levels, mental clarity, and supporting the body’s natural defense


Acai, a nutrient-dense berry, is recognized for its potential to enhance overall well-being. Rich in antioxidants, Acai may help support the body’s defenses against environmental stressors, while promoting healthy energy levels and vitality.

Himalayan Goji

Himalayan Goji, a nutrient-rich fruit, is valued for its potential contribution to overall wellness. This superfood is believed to support the immune system, promote healthy energy levels, and aid in maintaining balance within the body. With its antioxidant properties, Himalayan Goji may help protect cells from environmental stressors.

Gotu Kola

The main group of components in gotu kola is the triterpenes including asiaticoside, madecassoside, asiatic acid, and madecassic acid, which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that are shown to positively influence brain plasticity which means a much sharper you.

  • Exhibits significant wound healing ability, Improves microcirculatory parameters, Sedative and anxiolytic properties, Antidepressant, Re-vitalize the brain and nervous system, increase attention span and concentration and combat aging:

Water Hyssop

Best known as a neural tonic and memory enhancer this powerful herb increases cerebral blood flow and neurotransmitter modulation.

Green Tea Extract

Healthy energy producer and one of the more researched and promising supplements. It upregulates fat metabolism at rest and during exercise. In recent years the consumption of Green Tea Extract has shown to help prevent lifestyle diseases like cardiovascular disease because of it’s preventative effects on chronic inflammation.

  • Helps with weight loss by increasing a protein hormone which is involved in regulating glucose levels as well
    as fatty acid breakdown:
  • Decrease cholesterol absorption and plasma levels, has strong free radical-scavenging
    activity inhibiting LDL oxidation, reduce the adhesion molecule expression, has antitrombotic activities by inhibiting platelet aggregation: 

Mikania Guaco

“Guaco” is Sun Horse Energy founder Dan Moriarty’s favorite herb, and the reason why he’s still alive. Traditionally, it’s a well-known herb for snake bites, scorpion stings and other venomous creatures. Guaco acts as a non-steroidal bronchodilator, meaning it opens up the airways without steroids. As a result of guaco opening up the airways, the alveoli (tiny air sacs in the lungs) are better able to accept oxygen transfer and get rid of carbon dioxide. In Brazil, Guaco syrup is one of the most popular herbal medicines used to treat the symptoms of asthmatic bronchitis, cough and hoarseness.

Osha Root

A traditional Native American herb, Osha is also known as “Bear Root”. Native Americans noticed that when bears emerged from hibernation, the first thing they did after being in a state of torpor for 4 months was not feast on salmon or drink water, but rather, dig up osha and eat it. Why? It decongests and wakes up the lungs. Native Americans who used Osha were able to run further, and treat their colds and congestion. Modern research studies suggest Osha may support the immune system by offering protective effects against oxidative damage.

I want to thank you for your existence. I want you to know that functional medicine has changed my life, well the life of my autistic son. So much so that I plan on taking the Functional Medicine Health Coach Certificate and work with my new friend who is now a Functional Medicine Doctor from the Institute of Functional Medicine and spread the word on GI testing and how finding the underlying issues will help eliminate autistic traits. 

I hope to be able to meet you one day so I can share this great news with others. Changing my son’s diet has changed him. Food is medicine!! By the way, I’m cooking my rutabaga. I’m Italian and never grew up with these. With love.

Rita Mastrangelo

I found you on YouTube a couple of weeks ago and I’m hooked. I listen to you a couple of hours every morning. I am being tested for celiac disease and have been gluten-free for a couple of weeks. Thank you for all of your insight.

April Renee

Just wanted to tell you that you’re amazing! You are helping so many people all over the world! Including me! Thank you so very much, Dr. Tom O’Bryan!

Patricia Puddle

Good morning Dr. Tom, Would just like to say thank you! This time last year I was going through a hell of a time with my gut. Terrible indigestion on a regular basis, feeling as if I had eaten a boulder and the tiredness was doing my heed (scottish for head) in! With two young girls being tired is not an option!

I went to the doctors on a number of occasions and they decided to prescribe omeprazole to mask the problem, sorry help my problem. I decided taking these drugs was not an option for me! So I started googling the life out of it!! Low and behold you started popping up!! Oh and Gluten intolerance! 

Your advice has been second to none! You have in my case really simplified what gluten does to my body and now that I have cut it out (which as it appears in lots of foods, some I can’t understand) I have found that my symptoms very quickly reduced and now I’m a year down the line they have gone for the vast majority of the time!! For that I’m truly grateful. I now follow you on YouTube and Instagram, which continues to educate me and the importance of gut health. I look forward to your future advice. Yours faithfully,

Gary Christie

Black Ant Extract

A Chinese medicine tonic, Black Ant is used to support energy levels. (In traditional Chinese medicine, Black Ant is given to increase vital Qi.) Research studies demonstrate that Black Ant supports the function of the thymus gland, which plays a crucial role in the immune system, producing and activating lymphocytes.

Siberian Ginseng

This well known adaptogen has been proven to reduce cardiovascular stress, lower and stabilize blood sugar to healthy levels, and encourages a more efficient lipid metabolism.

Pine Bark Extract

Many studies have shown that pine bark possesses anti-aging properties. It’s very similar in nature to the well-known antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compound, resveratrol, which is abundant in red wine and grapes. Pine bark has a proven beneficial effect on lipids, the cardiovascular and immune systems.

Lion's Mane

A very yummy and medicinal mushroom is a well established candidate for brain and nerve health because it triggers neurite outgrowth and regenerates damaged nerves. Lions Mane has been extensively studied for its neuro-health properties.


This is an enzyme/protein that speeds up biochemical reactions and helps to prevent and dissolve the formations of blood clots (thrombi); addresses the problem of blood hyperviscosity, thereby preventing thick and sticky blood, which is not conducive to overall cardiovascular health.


Referred to as the women’s ultimate power herb, by some herbal enthusiasts. Used in India for at least 3,000 years, Shatavari, is structurally similar to estrogen produced within the body. Some researchers have concluded shatavari can be a highly effective alternative to synthetic hormone replacement therapy for peri- and menopausal women.

Chaste Tree Berry

Improve female libido, mitigate PMS, reproductive health

Horny Goat Weed

Increase para-sympathetic nervous activity, mitigate osteoporosis, improve libido, enhance smooth muscle tissue function

  • Treatment for erectile problems and nerve injuries in human patients:
  • Prevents thickening or hardening of the arteries through multiple mechanisms, including attenuating DNA damage, correcting endothelial dysfunction, inhibiting the proliferation and migration of smooth muscle cells, repressing macrophage-derived foam cell formation and inflammatory responses, as well as preventing platelet activation:

Bulgarian Tribulus

Enhance athletic performance, improve circulation, improve sexual performance, more efficient rates of protein synthesis


Cordyceps, a genus of mushroom, gained lots of attention after Chinese long-distance runners performed impressively at international competitions in the 1990s and early 2000s. Along with high-altitude training, supplementing with cordyceps was part of their intense training program. A research study concludes that cordyceps improves tolerance to high-intensity exercise after supplementation with it because the fungus is thought to increase blood flow, enhance oxygen utilization; it also acts as an antioxidant. It also has powerful anti-tumor properties, the ability to regulate the endocrine system, enhance your immune function, and protect the kidneys, lung, liver, and other organs.

  • Immunomodulatory, antitumor, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant activities, promotion of endurance capacity, and learning-memory improvement, can be used to treat conditions such as hyposexuality, night sweats, hyperglycemia, hyperlipidemia, asthenia, arrhythmias, and other heart, respiratory, renal and liver diseases:
  • Various pharmacological actions, including nephroprotective, hepatoprotective, anti-inflammatory, antioxidative, and antiapoptotic effects:

Ginkgo Biloba

In recent decades, an extract of the leaves of the tree Ginkgo biloba L. has been used to improve memory in disorders like Dementia disorders that affect memory and intellectual functioning, and are caused primarily by Alzheimer’s disease and vascular disorders.

  • Potent antioxidant properties and ability to enhance peripheral and cerebral circulation, ginkgo’s primary application lies in the treatment of cerebrovascular dysfunctions and peripheral vascular disorders:
  • Experimental results showed extracts of G.Biloba to upregulate protein expressions of BDNF:
  • The effects of Ginkgo biloba extract on cognitive functions in aged female rats;
  • The role of oxidative stress and brain-derived neurotrophic factor:


Jiaogulan, a versatile herb, is celebrated for its potential to support overall well-being. Known for its adaptogenic properties, Jiaogulan may help the body cope with stress and maintain balance. This remarkable herb has also been associated with promoting healthy energy levels, boosting endurance, and fostering a sense of calm and relaxation.