Nima for do-it-yourself gluten testing

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The people who developed the at-home personal gluten testing device, Nima, recently sent me one of their devices to test. I shall therefore be putting this device to work in coming weeks and posting the results here.

Here is the device with one of the single-use capsules for testing:

The first meal I tested was a Shrimp, Crab, Avocado & Mango Stack ordered at The Chart House in Boston, where my son and I were visiting my sister. My son’s girlfriend, Liz, is an exquisitely sensitive 23-year old with celiac disease and she needs to be vigilant for any cross-contamination at all. (I once served my son and Liz a meatloaf I made with ground beef and pork purchased at the butcher; no grains added, only eggs, onions, small quantity of ground golden flaxseed, pepper, salt. After eating a slice, Liz could barely walk for three days due to joint pain. I learned this lesson the hard way: If a butcher uses his tools or work surfaces to cut processed meats containing any form of grains, you cannot purchase any meats from him and be confidently gluten-free.)

This is the seafood dish that Liz ordered and was billed as gluten-free and described in the Chart House menu as “shrimp and crab meat tossed in remoulade, layered with avocado & mango,” pictured here:

We inserted a pea-sized sample of the food into the single-use Nima capsule, screwed on the top, then ran the test which requires three minutes:

The photo should show a smiley face telling us that no gluten was detected (above 20 parts per million, consistent with the FDA’s definition of gluten-free)–my bad photography fails to show the lighted result, but the dish did indeed prove to be gluten-free. The photo should show something like this:


If gluten is detected, then this result would have shown:

Liz ate and enjoyed her dish and, consistent with the negative gluten-testing result, did not suffer her joint pain nor gastrointestinal distress that typically follows an exposure.

I found the device very easy to use. The instructions were straightforward and concise. The few parts made testing quite simple. (The only tripping point was my failure to fully screw on the capsule top, fearing breaking it, and yielding a few “Test error” results. Once I screwed it on properly, tests proceeded as expected.) For someone like Liz who cannot afford any exposure to gluten proteins, having a negative test result even after the assurances of the waitstaff was helpful. The device can only yield a test on the small sample tested, not the entire dish, but it nonetheless can provide some indication of the dish’s safety.

The Nima device is not for everyone. It is most helpful for those who are exceptionally gluten-sensitive, whether for celiac disease, exceptional gastrointestinal sensitivity to grain components such as gliadin and other proteins (in which case the presence of gluten is an indicator of grain contamination), have neurological or other autoimmune grain-based conditions such as cerebellar ataxia, rheumatoid arthritis or type 1 diabetes. It is pricey at $279 for the starting kit that includes 3 single-use test capsules and a micro-USB charging cable, with additional capsules available at around $5 per capsule ($60 for 12 capsules). This therefore adds $5 every time you test a dish at a restaurant, for example.

But for those of you who need/desire the assurance to avoid reactions like those experienced like Liz with celiac disease, this device can indeed be helpful.

I shall continue to provide some more testing examples using the Nima in future.

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