What Is Gluten? Are You Allergic to Gluten or Have Gluten Intolerance

Gluten is a really hot topic today in the health and fitness industry. 

Just like fat was vindicated in 1990s and gluten is now the new dietary villain, blamed for causing weight gain, long-term illness to skin problems

I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but some popular diets like Paleo is also gluten free

Needless to say, going gluten-free is becoming the latest “it” thing to do in the health industry, and doing so is seemingly the right of passage to a healthier you. 

Gluten-Free Diet: More than a Trend? 

Wheat bread

Some diets are all about balance. Take DASH diet.

It’s all about a healthy balance between foods, vitamins and minerals to achieve optimum health. 

And there are diets that require a complete elimination of certain food(s) that cause (or suspected to cause) a health damage in a person. 

Gluten-free diet belongs to this group of diets. 

People on gluten-free diet eliminate all foods that contain gluten, a  protein found in wheat, grains, barley and rye. 

This leads to elimination of a fairly wide variety of foods.

Wheat is commonly found in: 

  • Breads
  • Baked goods
  • Soups
  • Pasta 
  • Cereals 
  • Sauces
  • Salad dressings 
  • Roux
  • Barley is commonly found in:
  • Malt
  • Food coloring
  • Soups
  • Malt vinegar
  • Beer
  • Rye is commonly found in:
  • Rye bread, such as pumpernickel 
  • Rye beer
  • Cereals  

If you’re like me, you probably thought gluten is only found in obvious grain products like bread, cereals and pasta— but according to American Diabetes Association, gluten is hiding in way more foods than many would’ve even imagined.

Those shocking gluten foods include but are not limited to:

GLuten salad dressing
  • Salads dressings
  • Hot dogs
  • Lunch meats
  • Soy sauce
  • Bouillon cubes
  • Some candies

Gluten is also found in nonfood products such as 

  • Over-the-counter medications
  • Vitamins supplements
  • Lipsticks
  • Skin products
  • Toothpaste 

If you have celiac disease, Holly Strawbridge from Harvard Health explains exposure to just 50 milligrams of gluten (about the amount in one small crouton) can cause a trouble in your gut, damage the lining of the small intestine and produce “gluten allergy symptoms” such as:

  • Abdominal bloating and pain
  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Irritability
  • Pale, foul-smelling, or fatty stool


Here is what’s bad with gluten 

Glutenin and gliadin - gluten

Gluten, the protein called a poison and culinary villain by William Davis, a cardiologist and author of “Wheat Belly”, is created when two molecules, glutenin and gliadin come into contact and form a bond.  

This bond is used to create the chewy texture of baked goods such as pizza crust, bread and muffins and hold ingredients together to help foods maintain their shape.

Gluten also traps carbon dioxide, which adds volume to the loaf as it ferments.

For people with celiac disease, this gluten can trigger an immune reaction that damages the inner lining of their small intestine and prevents it from absorbing nutrients, says National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. 

According to UCLA Health, for those with Non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS), exposure to gluten can produce celiac disease like symptoms but won’t cause damage to the small intestine. 

Gluten intolerance is a genetic disorder that affects at least 1 in 100 people worldwide, according to Celiac.org

And 2.5 million Americans remain undiagnosed and at risk for long-term health complications such as: 

  • Type 1 diabetes 
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Dermatitis herpetiformis (itchy skin rash)
  • Anemia
  • Osteoporosis
  • Infertility 
  • Miscarriage 
  • Migraines
  • Intestinal cancers
  • Neurological conditions like epilepsy 

The best treatment known to this day is going gluten-free, says Celiac Support Association. 

In other words, if you have celiac disease or have gluten intolerance, it is recommended that you eat “gluten free foods” in your diet.

But you already knew that. 

How about the rest of us? 

According to an survey published in 2013, more than a one third of Americans are actively trying to eliminate or cut gluten form their diets. 

Is gluten-free diet better for your health? 

Gluten free diet

Should You Eat Gluten-Free Diet (even you don’t have celiac disease)?

Nowadays, many popular grocery stores such as Whole Foods and Fred Meyer have a whole section dedicated to “gluten free products” catering to people suffering from celiac disease, “gluten allergy symptoms” or “gluten intolerance symptoms”. 

And their selection is pretty impressive. 

You can find all sorts of gluten free products ranging from gluten free bread to gluten free beer in most local and national grocery stores. 

No doubt, gluten-free phenomenon is spreading far and wide. In 2016, its gross sale is estimated to reach $15 billion according to Forbes.com

Growth in gluten-free market is surely a welcomed change for those with gluten intolerance.

But with celiac disease only applying to 7 % or 1 in 141 Americans, should the other 93% get on the bandwagon and join the gluten-free marching band?

The answer may not be what you expected. 

Despite what you might hear in the media — gluten does not affect everyone.

It only affects you if you have gluten intolerance. 

According to Dr. Daniel A. Leffler, director of clinical research at the Celiac Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, the idea that people going gluten-free to lose weight, boost energy or generally feel healthier doesn’t make much sense. 

He explains “People who are sensitive to gluten may feel better, but a larger portion will derive no significant benefit from the practice. They’ll simply waste their money, because these products are expensive,”

Gluten free products are undoubtedly more expensive than regular products. 

Nancy Lapid, Celiac Disease & Gluten Sensitivity Expert did us a favor by comparing prices between regular and gluten-free foods and showing us just how premium gluten-free foods really are. 

Here are the price differences she found at her local grocery store. 

a 16-ounce box of regular pasta elbows costs somewhere around a dollar, while a gluten-free elbow pasta costs close to $3. 

A 16-ounce loaf of regular packaged sandwich bread costs $2, while a 14-ounce loaf of gluten-free sandwich bread costs $5.98. 

So if you are not with celiac disease or gluten intolerant, what’s the point of going gluten-free? 

3 Reasons to Go Gluten-Free

Why to fo gluten free

Reason #1: 80% of celiac disease patients remain undiagnosed

According to UCLA Health, 80% of celiac disease patients are yet to be diagnosed or misdiagnosed.  

In other words, most of people with celiac disease don’t even know they have it and gluten is damaging their health. 

According to National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, celiac disease affects people of all ages including children and is more common in Caucasians and females. 

Since celiac disease is manageable once gluten is eliminated from your diet, the real danger is in patients who remain undiagnosed.

If you show any symptoms of celiac disease, it’s important to get screened and tested and go gluten-free. 

Reason #2: Celiac disease is becoming more common 

Studies indicate that celiac disease is becoming more common. 

Joseph Murray, M.D.. a Mayo Clinic gastroenterologist, says “it used to be rare, but it’s now more common in all age groups and becoming a public health issue.” 

According to Mayo Clinic, “studies show celiac disease is four times more common than 60 years ago (around 1950), with fatal complications if it goes untreated.”. 

What’s more, Mayo study shows a fourfold higher death risk for people with undiagnosed gluten intolerance. 

Danger of eating gluten is very real with celiac disease. 

Reason #3: Gluten affects more than people with celiac disease 

According to UCLA Health, gluten affects more than people with celiac disease.

It affects people with gluten sensitivities (NCGS) or wheat allergies.

That magnifies a population who should be avoiding gluten due to their gluten intolerance. 

According to celiaccentral.org, it’s estimated by research that 18 million Americans have gluten sensitivity

That’s 6 times the amount of Americans who have celiac disease.

If you have been suffering symptoms that seem related to gluten, it may be possible that you have non-celiac gluten sensitivity (“gluten sensitivity”), says Celiac Central. 

Yes, all reasons point to the possibility that you may possibly be affected by gluten. 

There are two ways to tell if you are gluten intolerant:

  1. Elimination diet
  2. Blood test

But most importantly, if you suspect that gluten is negatively affecting you, speak with your doctor to discuss further actions.

There you have it! Have you noticed any of the reactions when eating gluten containing foods or whole grain products? What’s your favorite gluten free food you like to eat? Leave a comment below and share it with us. 

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