What is Gluten?

In recent years, gluten free products have become increasingly more common.


According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, gluten is a common name for a sticky storage protein found in wheat, rye, spelt (dinkel wheat), barley, and triticale which is a cross between wheat and rye. Of all the grains with gluten, wheat is by far the most consumed by humans. Gluten helps foods maintain their shape by gluing them together and it also makes dough elastic which gives it the ability to rise during baking. Gluten also gives baked products like chapattis a nice chewy texture and stickiness. The two main gluten proteins are gliadin and glutenin found mostly in wheat.

Gluten Sensitivity and Celiac disease

When gluten tolerance is low, people who eat baked products made from wheat or other gluten grains fall ill. The most serious reaction to gluten is celiac disease. According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, the disease occurs when the body’s immune system attacks the small intestine after gluten foods are eaten. The attack damages the villi which are the tiny fingerlike projections lining up the small intestines which aid in nutrient absorption. When the villi are damaged, nutrient absorption is affected. Celiac disease is hereditary and children who have a relative with celiac have a 1 in 10 chance of contracting it, according to the Celiac Disease Foundation. To avoid contracting the celiac disease, it is best to avoid eating foods with gluten.

Celiac Disease Symptoms and Tests

Celiac disease has over 200 symptoms which makes it difficult to diagnose because it affects people differently, according to the Celiac Disease Foundation. These symptoms can occur in the digestive system or other body parts. The disease can also develop in children or adults for reasons undocumented. In other instances, there are people with celiac but don’t exhibit the symptoms at all, but test positive during the disease’s blood test. There are also individuals who receive a negative for celiac when their blood is tested but a positive when intestinal biopsy is done. Children with celiac exhibit symptoms like abdominal pain and bloating, severe diarrhea, vomiting, smelly stool, constipation, fatigue, weight loss, stunted growth, irritability, dental enamel defects on permanent teeth, and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Adults with celiac have joint pains, fatigue, anaemia, depression, infertility, migraines, seizures, skin rash, and missed menstrual periods according to the Celiac Disease Foundation. Long term conditions for failing to treat celiac include gallbladder malfunction, pancreatic problems, gastrointestinal cancers, early onset osteoporosis, and mineral deficiencies among other conditions.

Gluten Sensitivity

There are instances where the gut is gluten sensitive even when the victim is not predisposed to celiac disease. This condition is described as non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS), and its symptoms are headache, joint pains, and numbness in the legs, arms, or fingers, according to Beyond Celiac. These symptoms can last for hours or days after gluten foods have been eaten but no damage occurs on the intestinal walls. The best way to avoid NCGS is to eat gluten free foods. According to Dr. Schar Institute study, people with NCGS can tolerate small amounts of gluten in foods without having symptoms. After one or two years of a gluten free diet, people with NCGS can reintroduce tiny amounts of gluten in their diet.


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