Sophie's World Blog

101 Gluten

101 Gluten


Gluten refers to the proteins found in wheat endosperm (a type of tissue produced in seeds that's ground to make flour). Gluten both nourishes plant embryos during germination and later affects the elasticity of dough, which in turn affects the chewiness of baked wheat products. Most of us unknowingly love it, because gluten gives our favorite foods that special touch: It makes pizza dough stretchy, gives bread its spongy texture, and is used to thicken sauces and soups.

Gluten is actually composed of two different proteins: gliadin (a prolamin protein) and glutenin (a glutelin protein).

Though "true gluten" is sometimes defined as being specific to wheat, gluten is often said to be part of other cereal grains — including rye, barley and various crossbreeds — because these grains also contain protein composites made from prolamins and glutelins.


Some people are gluten-intolerant, meaning their bodies produce an abnormal immune response when it breaks down gluten from wheat and related grains during digestion. Celiac disease is fairly common in European countries and the United States. However, its prevalence is often underestimated because many individuals who develop celiac disease have few or no symptoms until later in life.

CELIAC DISEASE (British: Coeliac disease) is a disorder resulting from an immune reaction to gluten.

The most well-known form of gluten intolerance is celiac disease, which affects one in every 141 people in the United States, according to the National Institutes of Health. When someone with celiac disease consumes gluten, it triggers an immune response that damages their intestines, preventing them from absorbing vital nutrients. The most serious problem is, this immune reaction ends up damaging the small intestine, which causes both great gastrointestinal distress and nutritional deficiencies.

Celiac disease can affect genetically predisposed people of all ages, but often begins in middle infancy. Symptoms include chronic diarrhea, weight loss and fatigue, but in some cases the disorder can be asymptomatic (no symptoms). According to the Celiac Sprue Association, there is no cure for celiac disease, the only effective treatment for this disorder is a gluten-free diet.

Signs and symptoms of celiac disease

Celiac disease is a permanent disorder and its effects may change from time to time during a person's lifetime.

A symptom is something the patient feels and describes, such as a stomachache, while a sign is detected by other people too, such as a rash. Some signs and symptoms are due to malabsorption and malnutrition resulting from the disorder. It should also be noted that symptoms can vary greatly from person to person.

According to the The University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center, there are hundreds of different signs and symptoms of celiac disease. Some signs and symptoms associated with celiac disease include:

  • Abdominal cramps, gas and bloating
  • Bone and joint pain
  • Depression
  • Diarrhea
  • Easy bruising
  • Failure to thrive in children
  • Flatulence (gas)
  • Fluid retention
  • Foul-smelling stools
  • Gastritis, gastrointestinal symptoms, including hemorrhage
  • General weakness, fatigue
  • Increased amount of fat in the stools
  • Infertility
  • Persistent hunger
  • Iron deficiency anemia
  • Irritability
  • Malnutrition
  • Mouth Sores
  • Muscle wasting, muscle weakness, muscle cramps
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Nerve damage (tingling in the legs and feet)
  • Nose bleeding
  • Nutrient Deficiencies
  • Obesity
  • Osteoporosis
  • Panic Attacks
  • Red urine
  • Skin Rash
  • Stomach Discomfort, stomach rumbling
  • Unhealthy pale appearance
  • Vertigo
  • Vitamin B12, D, and K deficiencies
  • Weight Loss
  • A degree of lactose intolerance may develop
  • Dermatitis herpetiformis (rashes typically on the elbows, knees and buttocks)
  • Sometimes symptoms are not clear, and the patient just generally feels unwell

How is celiac disease diagnosed?

How can you know if you have celiac disease? The only way is to be tested. Other diseases can produce the same signs and symptoms and can be confused with celiac disease (pancreatic insufficiency, Crohn's disease of the small intestine, irritable bowel syndrome, and small intestinal overgrowth of bacteria).

Blood tests: blood tests that are specific for celiac disease include antigliadin antibodies, endomysial antibodies, and anti-tissue transglutaminase antibodies. Blood is screened for AGA (Antigliadin) and EmA (Andomysium Antibodies).

Small intestinal biopsy: this procedure is considered the most accurate test for celiac disease. During the endoscopy samples of the intestinal lining are taken. Usually several samples are obtained to increase the accuracy of the diagnosis.

What are the treatment options for celiac disease?

The standard treatment is a complete avoidance of gluten for life. Patients with the disease should avoid all products that contain gluten for the rest of their life. This is the only treatment that works. Strict observance to the diet allows the intestines to heal. This leads to the end of all symptoms in most cases.

It may be difficult avoiding gluten. Many products have hidden gluten in them. If you have celiac disease you should consider seeing a qualified dietitian. It is essential for patients to educate themselves. Patients should be aware which foods contain gluten and which foods are safe but they should learn how to have a balanced diet despite the restrictions.

Failure to observe the diet may cause relapses. There is a wide range of products on the market labeled gluten-free. The term gluten-free is generally used to indicate there is a harmless level of gluten rather than a total absence of it. Regulations regarding the labelin of gluten-free products vary widely by country, so patients should use caution.

Consequences of untreated celiac disease

When left untreated, celiac disease may increase the risk of developing certain types of cancer.Research found that celiac disease is associated with intestinal lymphoma and other forms of cancer, especially adenocarcinoma of the small intestine, of the pharynx, and of the oesophagus.

The complications of celiac disease also include small bowel ulcers. Moreover, if this chronic digestive disorder is not properly treated, the patient's quality of life may be seriously undermined.

GLUTEN INTOLERANCE: Wheat allergy is a rare type of gluten intolerance — it's a classic food allergy marked by skin, respiratory or gastrointestinal reactions to wheat allergens. Recently, scientists have become aware of another potential form of intolerance called nonceliac gluten sensitivity. After consuming gluten, patients with gluten sensitivity may experience many celiac intestines. In cases of gluten intolerance, doctors typically recommend a gluten-free diet. Patients must avoid eating any foods and ingredients that contains gluten. But unlike celiac, sensitivity doesn't damage the intestine.


For those with celiac disease, gluten intolerance is not just an inconvenience—it can be debilitating. People with celiac disease cannot eat any foods containing gluten without causing long-term damage to their health due to inflammation in the small intestine and nutrient deficiencies. An individual with a gluten allergy or sensitivity may choose to eat some or no gluten-containing foods depending on her tolerance or the severity of his or her symptoms.

Some people may be sensitive to gluten but don’t have outright celiac disease. These people may feel better on a diet with less gluten. So what's wrong with the rest of us trying a gluten-free diet a try to see how we feel?

In recent years, many people without gluten intolerance have taken up gluten-free diets. Experts worry, however, that going on these diets without explicitly needing to could be detrimental to a person's health, as gluten-free foods are often nutrient-deficient.

Whatever the reasons, gluten intolerance is becoming so common that, for many people, special diets are no longer special at all.

For starters, going gluten-free means saying no to many common and nutritious foods. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. Gluten also shows up in many whole grain foods related to wheat, including bulgur, farro, kamut, spelt, and triticale (a hybrid of wheat and rye). Some celiac disease experts warn patients to steer clear of oats, as well.

Gluten itself doesn’t offer special nutritional benefits. But the many whole grains that contain gluten do. They’re rich in an array of vitamins and minerals, such as B vitamins and iron, as well as fiber. Studies show that whole grain foods, as part of a healthy diet, may help lower risk of heart disease, type-2 diabetes, and some forms of cancer. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that half of all carbohydrates in the diet come from whole grain products.

To be sure, a few whole grains don’t contain gluten, including amaranth, millet, and quinoa. But they are far less common than gluten-containing grains. Meeting the dietary guidelines goal is very tough if you have to eliminate wheat, barley, rye, kamut, and other gluten-containing whole grains.


Eating Gluten-free without consideration, you can end up with serious nutritional deficiencies. Gluten-free doesn't necessarily equal healthy, especially when people yank vitamin-enriched and wholegrain foods from their diets and replace them with gluten free brownies.

This is where careful meal planning comes in, which may explain why some people feel so good when they go G-free: They're eating real food instead of ultraprocessed packaged fare. If you skip the gluten-free goodies and focus on fruits, vegetables, lean protein, dairy, and gluten free grains like amaranth and quinoa, this can be a very healthy way of eating.

Thanks to the increase in diagnosed celiac and gluten sensitivity cases, the corresponding uptick in foods marketed to sufferers, and with this popularity push, people have latched on to avoiding gluten as a cure-all for many conditions aside from celiac, including migraines, fibromyalgia, and chronic fatigue syndrome. While some have found relief, that doesn't mean a gluten free diet will work in all cases.

And then there's the idea that a gluten-free existence is the ticket to speedy weight loss. But, for being real, there's nothing magical about a gluten-free diet that's going to help you lose weight. The secret is just that Gluten-free dining can seriously limit the number of foods you can eat. With fewer choices, you're a lot less likely to overeat.

Without consideration this diet can backfire too, because gluten-free doesn't mean fat-free or calorie-free. Without gluten to bind food together, food manufacturers often use more fat and sugar to make the product more palatable. For example pretzels: A serving of regular pretzels has about 110 calories and just one gram of fat. Gluten-free pretzels has 140 calories and six grams of fat.


Eating in restaurants can be a particular challenge for people with gluten allergies, but if an individual sticks to the above items, such as grilled meats and steamed vegetables, she should be able to dodge the gluten bullet.

Foods to avoid in restaurants include fried foods, certain sauces, or anything that has been fried in the same pan with a gluten-containing food.

Those with celiac disease must be especially cautious when eating out and make sure that dietary restrictions are communicated to the chef in advance. Certain restaurants are almost certainly out of question for those on a gluten-free diet, including fast food restaurants, buffets, salad bars, and most bakeries.


Copyright: Zsófia Michelin-Corporatum Oy, Content pictures copyrigh: Shutterstock, Development: e-Com