What is Gluten?

What is Gluten? You've heard the word probably numerous times but weren't quite sure exactly what it is. So, here's the lowdown.


Gluten is a protein composite found in several types of grains, including wheat, rye, malt, barley and triticum spelt (which is cross between wheat and rye).


Gluten consists of two proteins… gliadin and glutenin. It is the gliadin part that people react negatively to.

When flour is mixed with water, gluten forms a sticky cross-linked network of proteins, giving elastic properties to dough and allowing bread to rise when baked. The name gluten is actually derived from these glue-like properties.

When gluten reaches the digestive tract and is exposed to the cells of the immune system, they mistakenly believe that it is coming from some sort of foreign invader, like a bacteria. In many people who are sensitive to gluten, this causes the immune system to mount an attack against it.

In celiac disease (the most severe form of gluten intolerance), the immune system attacks the gluten proteins, but it also attacks an enzyme in the cells of the digestive tract called tissue transglutaminase. Gluten exposure in celiacs causes the immune system to attack both the gluten as well as the intestinal wall itself. For this reason, celiac disease is classified as an autoimmune disease.

The immune reaction can cause degeneration of the intestinal wall, which leads to nutrient deficiencies, various digestive issues, anemia, fatigue, failure to thrive as well as an increased risk of many serious diseases.

Celiac disease is believed to afflict about 1% of people, but there are also studies showing that the rate of celiac disease is increasing rapidly in the population.
Bare in mind that a large percentage of celiacs don’t even have abdominal symptoms, making diagnosis on clinical grounds very difficult. The symptoms may manifest themselves in different ways, such as fatigue, anemia, depression, delayed growth in children, ADAH, weight loss…

For more information please visit celiac.org

Have a happy gluten free day!