When Going Gluten-free Is Not Enough: Finding Hidden Gluten Before You Eat - friends eating

Most people who live gluten-free have a routine down. They check labels, research ingredient lists, join food forums, keep meticulously gluten-free kitchens, call restaurants, talk to waiters…the list goes on and on. But sometimes, often, even after doing all this work gluten-free eaters still. get. glutened.

This fact was recently highlighted by a recent study evaluating how often people on long-term gluten-free diets were getting exposed to gluten.. These studies utilize new biological tests that can tell you if you are getting exposed to unwanted (and unknown) gluten.

The main takeaway?

Many individuals on gluten-free diets (even long-term gluten-free diets) still have significant levels of gluten in their systems — levels that are often way outside what is considered safe for Celiacs.

It’s great that we now have studies (and take home tests like Glutenostics) that help us confirm what some of us were already suspicious of — gluten-free eaters are still in danger of getting glutened.

The question is, now that we have strong data to backup the fact that gluten-free eaters are often exposed to gluten, what can we do to help them avoid gluten in the first place?

Test suspicious food right at the table.

Our goal with Nima was to provide peace of mind at mealtime with a quick test that gives you information about your food you wouldn’t otherwise have. Having a resource at your fingertips to confirm a sample of your order is in fact, gluten-free, might be the key in improving your odds of identifying sources of unexpected gluten exposure, enabling you to be your healthiest self.

Nima’s goal is to give more power to you so you can make an informed decision BEFORE consuming something that might do them harm.

Tap into the power of your gluten-free community.

I have been a gluten-free lover of food for a long time. Before founding Nima, I traveled frequently for work and was constantly getting sick when eating outside of the home, even when ordering a gluten-free specified dish. It was extremely frustrating. I felt powerless over my own diet. I often felt that I just had to accept the risk of getting sick if I wanted to eat out…mealtime felt like a game of Russian roulette.

Anyone on a gluten-free diet has a challenge of truly avoiding gluten, as the studies show, in addition to the feedback from our own community. You need to rely on multiple data points and your community to truly stay healthy when eating in unfamiliar eating environments.

Real reviews, from real experiences, by real people.

At Nima, we want to put the power of the food review into the hands of the public, and back it up with science. The Nima team and community has generated 7,242 data points from over 4,000 US restaurant locations in the Nima database. This is currently available to everyone, not just Nima owners.

When Going Gluten-free Is Not Enough: Finding Hidden Gluten Before You Eat - map of #nimatested places

Map of Nima tests all over the U.S.! You can see the individual restaurants tested in the Nima app (Download in iOS and Android).


Findings from the data:

For all restaurant dishes, Nima found gluten in 1 out of 4 of the dishes (25%).

When Going Gluten-free Is Not Enough: Finding Hidden Gluten Before You Eat - dishes

For dishes labelled gluten-free, Nima found gluten in about 1 out of 3 of the dishes (31%).

When Going Gluten-free Is Not Enough: Finding Hidden Gluten Before You Eat - dishes

Some more specific insights on the repeat, surprise gluten results for the top Nima tested dishes around the country at various restaurants:

finding hidden gluten - #nimatested restaurant results

Nima found gluten in GF Pizza and GF Pasta over 50% of the time in test results!

→ pro tip for Nima users: sample the toppings in pizza as well as the crust in one capsule

French fries were the most popular item to test! About ⅕ times Nima found gluten in the communicated GF frier

→ pro tip: ask the wait staff if anything with flour / gluten is fried. If not, also ask how often they change the oil

More consistently safer and popular items were the breakfast sandwich and also guac and chips, although 1 out of 10 times you still may find gluten

→ pro tip: chips are often fried so the frier question applies to chips as well, even if you are dealing with corn chips!


Note –

  • Note that the restaurant tested results are generated by Nima community members who are sharing their test results on the Nima app
  • A review is when a user submits the location and dish specificity of the test result
  • Nima just takes a pea sized sample of your plate, so it does not guarantee your entire plate is gluten-free, but even with that one sample, we are finding 1 out of 3 times people are finding gluten
  • Nima can sometimes pick-up less than 20ppm. Read more about Nima results.


There is no silver bullet.

There is no single silver bullet. At Nima, we are trying to fill what we think is a void in the toolbox of food sensitive eaters.

Nima is not the only solution. The solution is a combination of: the questions and diligence you already do when scoping a new dish or place to eat, better and more consistent regulations, more restaurant and waitstaff education, relying on guidance from medical professionals if you have a diagnosis,  and better feedback loops for accountability. Nima is one part of this ecosystem, but an important data point that can have a positive personal and community impact.

There’s no doubt that the food industry and technology are moving in the right direction (how quickly and efficiently that change is happening is up for debate and contingent on the open mindedness and willingness to collaborate).

Compared to 12 years ago, I feel like we are in a great place today! There is an ever increasing menu of resources and tools for gluten-free eaters to choose from. More and more the power is being put into the hands of the people.

Let’s keep the conversation going.

Let’s keep pushing forward and generating data!

Let’s keep working together as a community to make the food world more safe for everyone and mealtime more enjoyable because we believe everyone should have a seat at the table.

When Going Gluten-free Is Not Enough: Finding Hidden Gluten Before You Eat