All about Gluten!

By: Nutrition expert- Vidula Kozarekar, Mumbai.

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Gluten is the main storage protein of wheat grains. Gluten is a complex mixture of hundreds of related but distinct proteins, mainly gliadin and glutenin. Similar storage proteins exist as secalin in rye, hordein in barley, and avenins in oats and are collectively referred to as “gluten”. Gluten is heat stable and has the capacity to act as a binding and extending agent and is commonly used as an additive in processed foods for improved texture, moisture retention, and flavor (1).

Gluten is found in…

It is found in wheat, barley, rye, oat, related species, and hybrids (such as spelled, Khorasan, emmer, among others) and the products of these, for example, such as malt. Gluten gives elasticity to dough, allowing for the puffy and chewy texture. About 80% of the protein in bread wheat is gluten. Pasta has a lesser degree of gluten. Imitation meats, beer, soy sauce, and occasionally, ice cream and ketchup have gluten from the included stabilizing agents. Contamination of other food products with gluten is also a common problem. Hair products and cosmetics sometimes contain gluten, as well (2), (3).

Who needs to follow Gluten-free diet? (4)

People suffering from following Gluten / Wheat related disorders ONLY need to follow Gluten-free diet after consulting with the physician:

  • Auto-immune- Celiac disease, Gluten ataxia, Dermatitis herpetiformis
  • Allergic- Wheat allergy
  • Not autoimmune and not allergic- Non-celiac Gluten sensitivity

Symptoms of Gluten related disorders: (5), (6), (7)

More than 250 symptoms of gluten related disorders have been reported. Few common symptoms are as follows-

  • Bloating
  • Abdominal discomfort or pain
  • Constipation and diarrhea
  • Headache
  • Brain fog
  • Tingling and/or numbness in hands and feet
  • Fatigue
  • Muscular disturbances and bone or joint pain;
  • Also neuropsychiatric manifestations (“gluten-sensitive idiopathic neuropathies”)

Potential Benefits and Harms of a GFD (Gluten-Free Diet) in Non–Celiac Disease Patients: (2)

  • Conditions With Potential Benefits From a GFD
    • Gluten-sensitive irritable bowel syndrome
    • No celiac gluten sensitivity
    • Schizophrenia or other mental health conditions
    • Atopy
    • Fibromyalgia
    • Endometriosis
    • Obesity
    • Athletic performance
  • Potential Harms of a GFD
    • Deficiencies of micronutrients and fiber
    • Increases in fat content of foods
    • Hyperlipidemia
    • Hyperglycemia
    • Coronary artery disease
    • Increased financial costs
    • Social impairment or restrictions

Practical ways to increase consumption of fiber and whole grains on the gluten-free diet: (8)

  • Use gluten-free whole grains whenever possible instead of white rice; examples include quinoa, amaranth, teff, millet, sorghum, brown or wild rice, buckwheat, and gluten-free oats
  • Incorporate cooked legumes into mixed dishes or as side dishes
  • Instead of potato chips, try crunchy vegetables as sides for sandwiches and wraps
  • Select a whole-grain gluten-free breakfast cereal instead of a rice-based cereal
  • Add vegetables and brown rice to gluten-free wraps
  • Select gluten-free whole-grain crackers instead of rice-based crackers
  • Select gluten-free whole grain pasta (e.g., quinoa-based pasta) in place of corn or rice pasta
  • Select popcorn or gluten-free trail mix for a snack

Vegetable and animal foods allowed or not allowed in gluten-free diet: (9)

  • Vegetable foods:
    • Allowed- Corn, Rice, Sorghum, Oat, Buckwheat, Quinoa, Amaranth, Vegetables, Fruits, Pulses, Nuts, Tapioca, Soybean, Potato, Root crops, Vegetable oils
    • Not allowed- Wheats (Spelt ,semolina, durum), Ray, Barley, Triticale, Malt
  • Animal foods:
    • Allowed- Milk and derivatives, Plain meat, Fish, Egg, Butter
    • Not allowed- none

Hazards of following Gluten free diet in the absence on Gluten related disorders: (10)

  • Gluten-free processed grain products (e.g., breads, cereals, and crackers) are often lower in fiber, iron, zinc, and potassium.
  • The gluten-free diet also may increase the risks for nutritional deficiencies, especially in B vitamins, iron, and trace minerals.
  • In addition, gluten-free products continue to be significantly more expensive. A 2015 study found that gluten-free bread and bakery products were on average 267% more expensive than gluten-containing breads, and gluten-free cereals were found to be 205% more expensive than gluten-containing cereals.


Do not self-diagnose the need for Gluten-free diet. A person who suspects that gluten or wheat products are causing irritation or allergies should talk to a doctor or a registered dietitian before adopting a gluten-free diet.



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