Now urban legends are urban folklore that were created by stories weaved together and circulated around until most people have accepted them as truths. There are many different kinds of urban myths that cover a wide range of subject matter. It’s not surprising to find that even diseases have their own folklore. And that a celiac disease urban legend revolves around tea bags containing gluten which can trigger the disease.
For those who do not know, celiac disease is a condition where the small intestines becomes inflamed due to the consumption of food containing gluten. Gluten is a protein commonly found in food made from wheat, barley, and rye. So such foods like bread, pizza, and pasta can contain gluten. The condition can be really bad in the long run. The inflammation that the disease causes in the intestines prevents the body from absorbing the nutrients that it needs. So the end results would be malnutrition. Malnutrition itself can then cause more ailments.
I don’t actually know where and when the urban legend started, but stories have already circulated that some makers of tea use tea bags made from gluten. This is obviously bad for tea drinkers that have contracted the celiac disease. Word got out and people with the disease now started to avoid tea just because of the stories. Or have become selective of the tea brands that they buy.
Reinforcing the stories is the fact that tea manufacturers began labeling their products as using only gluten free tea bags. This of course, is a reaction from the stories, which probably resulted in tea sales going down. That’s the problem with urban myths. Despite how absurd they might sound, people will tend to be wary since they would treat stories coming from credible sources as truth with little fact checking. The effects of this can sometimes be quite devastating.
Now, there has not been a solid shred of proof that manufacturers indeed used gluten as an ingredient for making their tea bags. Some say that making tea bags with gluten does not make sense at all since gluten can be dissolved in water. Even though, there is research which indicates that gluten has poor water solubility properties, but still the stories circulated.
Tea in itself does not contain gluten. Tea contains caffeine and other antioxidants but definitely not gluten. However, the tea brands that are available on the market today are often a blend of other ingredients. The reason for blending different kinds of tea and other stuff together is to develop a unique taste. There are times that barley is added to tea blends to enhance taste and to offer something different. But barley contains gluten. Maybe, a tea brand that contains barley was consumed by someone with celiac disease. The symptoms recurred of celiac disease and that person might have generalized that the tea was the cause not analyzing it more closely.
That could have been the start of the urban myth of the tea bag. I am personally not aware of any tea blends, today or in the past, which have used barley or even wheat as part of the ingredients. In the same way, I haven’t read any conclusive study which defunct this urban legend once and for all.
Personally, I would believe the fact that protein based or gluten based tea bags is not a commercial viability. I would choose to believe that this is indeed a celiac disease urban legend. However, for those of you who choose to be cautious, there are numerous tea brands today that claim to be gluten free. With regards to choices of tea, you won’t be restricted. You can continue enjoying your tea happily.