by Joseph Mercola
May 19, 2018
Gluten is a protein that's made of
that form an elastic bond in the presence of water
Gluten intolerance is a condition wherein a person's immune system
responds abnormally to gluten. It may often be confused with celiac
disease (another gluten-related disorder) or simply thought of as a
A gluten-free diet is an important recourse of for combating
gluten-related disorders. Extreme vigilance is only likely if you
have celiac disease, since exposure to gluten can cause sickness and
threaten your health in the long run
The word "gluten" has become such a buzzword in recent years, most
likely because of the sudden popularity of the gluten-free diet
that's been endorsed by famous personalities.
Before you consider
trying this diet, read this page first to learn about gluten, and
how it can negatively impact your body and health in the long run.
What Is Gluten?
A type of protein, gluten is composed of glutenin and gliadin
molecules that form an elastic bond when mixed with water.
highly noted for its adhesive abilities that can maintain a compact
structure for holding bread and cakes together, and providing a
spongier texture. This ability isn't surprising, considering that
the word "gluten" is derived from the Latin word for "glue."
While it does wonders for these foods, the same cannot be said for
Research has shown that gluten can be quite harmful for
you because of the vast range of complications it might cause (more
on this to come in a while).
What Does Gluten Do to Your Body?
A major caveat linked to gluten is its tendency to impede proper
nutrient breakdown and absorption from foods, regardless if they
have gluten or not.
This may prevent proper digestion because excess
gluten leads to the formation of a glued-together constipating lump
in the gut. Afterward, the undigested gluten prompts the immune
system to attack the villi, or the fingerlike projections lining
your small intestine. 1
This may lead to side effects such as
diarrhea or constipation, nausea and abdominal pain.
Excessive gluten consumption and further small intestine damage and
inflammation may predispose a person to nutrient mal-absorption,
nutrient deficiencies, anemia, osteoporosis, other neurological or
psychological diseases, and complications linked to the skin, liver,
joints, nervous system and more.
What Are the Types of Food That Contain Gluten?
Gluten is predominantly found in whole grains like,
In wheat varieties like,
...and in other products like bulgar and semolina.
Wheat-based flours and
byproducts that also contain high quantities of this protein
bread crumbs and croutons
Cookies, cakes, muffins and pastries
dressings and sauces
Conventional oats (these have a high chance
of being contaminated during the growing,
harvesting or processing stages
If there's another compelling reason why you shouldn't eat processed
foods, it's because these items often contain gluten. Here are
examples of foods with gluten, even though they're not made from
and bouillon cubes 9
Lunch meats and
Seasoned chips and
other seasoned snack foods
Ice cream cones
Even worse, manufacturers deceive customers by "hiding" gluten
products like wheat under other names in food labels, such as:
Starches and other derivatives
Hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP)
Textured vegetable protein (TVP)
Common Signs of a
'Gluten Allergy' You Should Watch Out For
Consuming too much gluten can prompt various complications, such as
a gluten allergy, wherein the immune system produces "weapons" to
combat gluten in your system.
However, a gluten allergy is not to be
confused with gluten intolerance, gluten sensitivity16 or celiac
disease. 17 It is quite similar to other food allergies, since these
are all responses to a particular allergen.
Some of the most common
gluten allergy symptoms are:
A metallic taste
in your mouth
As the book "Gluten-Free Cooking for Dummies" further highlights, a
gluten allergy may lead to adverse effects such as anaphylaxis or an
anaphylactic shock that may affect different organs.
experience agitation, hives, breathing problems, reduced blood
pressure levels, fainting or even death, if the reaction is very
Warning Signs of Gluten Intolerance
Should the immune system have an unusual response to gluten in your
system, then it might be a sign that you have gluten intolerance.
Sometimes it can be mistaken for celiac disease (another
gluten-related disorder) or a wheat allergy. 20
The root cause of a
gluten intolerance is not fully understood, although it has been
linked to the digestive system, compared to celiac disease where a
genetic link has been found. 21
Typical gluten intolerance symptoms include bloating, belly pain,
diarrhea, tiredness and a general feeling of being unwell.
with a gluten intolerance might also experience these indicators,
although these are less frequent and already affect areas beyond the
Joint or muscle
If you or someone you know experiences any of these symptoms, seek
medical attention immediately.
This will help you determine whether
you have gluten intolerance or if the symptoms occur because of
other health reasons. This greatly applies if you or someone you
know has severe belly pain.
An extreme stomachache is not a sign of
gluten intolerance, so it might be due to another potentially
devastating disease that may require immediate treatment.
Having gut-related symptoms checked immediately may be helpful too,
as numerous conditions that target the gut can overlap with other
diseases. Fortunately, these can be examined during a checkup and
your doctor may rule out other causes.
Take note that symptoms of
gluten intolerance are generally similar to those of celiac disease,
although the reactions that people with these conditions experience
To diagnose a gluten intolerance, it's important that you continue
eating your usual meals, especially if it's abundant in foods with
gluten. This could help the doctor determine the main cause of the
An inaccurate diagnosis might occur if the patient decides
to stop eating gluten-loaded foods prior to, or during, a
Common Indicators of Gluten Sensitivity
In various studies, gluten sensitivity is also called non-celiac
gluten sensitivity (NCGS) as celiac disease patients are sensitive
to gluten too.
The difference between a gluten sensitivity and
celiac disease is that the former may be triggered not just by
wheat, but by other grains like rye and barley, too, as these grains
are known to have the glutenin and gliadin proteins (or protein
fragments) also found in wheat. 23
Typical symptoms of gluten sensitivity include nausea, skin
irritation, bloating and gas, brain fog and fatigue. However, these
indicators can widely vary and may also occur alongside gynecologic
conditions, lactose intolerance and irritable bowel syndrome.
Because there is no specific laboratory test for gluten sensitivity,
your physician will have to rule out other possible causes. In some
cases, patients may need to be checked for wheat allergy or celiac
Should test results be negative, a gluten-free diet may be
However, if any of the aforementioned tests deliver
positive results, then you may want to continue eating gluten-rich
foods for a more accurate diagnosis. 26
Why a Gluten-Free Diet Works
A gluten-free diet is an important course of action for combating
gluten-related disorders, and picking gluten-free foods is the first
step in doing so.
Because there are foods that are incorrectly
labeled "gluten-free," it may be quite tricky at first to select the
correct items. A set of guidelines on proper gluten-free labeling
standards released in 2013 by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
The organization states that for a food product to bear
the gluten-free label and be considered such, it must be:
Naturally gluten-free: Rice, non-GMO corn, quinoa, sorghum, flax
and amaranth seed are naturally gluten-free grains.
Refined to remove gluten: Gluten must be removed from any
gluten-containing grain. As such, the final product should not
contain more than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten.
Extreme vigilance is only likely if you have celiac disease, since
exposure to gluten can cause sickness and threaten your health in
the long run.
What's great about a gluten-free diet is that nearly
everyone can benefit from it, whether you have a gluten intolerance
or not. Grains, even whole sprouted varieties, tend to cause many
problems because of the following factors:
Milling or baking
Grains have high net carbs, so removing them from your diet can help
improve mitochondrial function.
Taking care of your mitochondrial
health is important if you want to reduce your risk for problems
linked to insulin resistance, such as being overweight and having
high blood pressure levels, as well as diseases like Type 2
diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
Prior to beginning a gluten-free diet, consult a dietitian or health
expert who can give advice on how to effectively avoid foods with
gluten while eating a healthy and balanced diet. 27
Best Foods to Eat if Following a Gluten-Free Diet
Once you're given the go-signal to try a gluten-free diet, stock up
on these natural and unprocessed foods: 28,29
that you try to sprout and/or ferment your beans
to reduce its lectin content, which may
negatively impact your health in the long run)
pumpkin or sunflower)
macadamias or walnuts)
Organic and grass
fed meats that aren't breaded, batter-coated or
Alaskan salmon, sardines, anchovies and herring)
that aren't breaded, batter-coated or marinated
GMO-free fruits and vegetables
Raw, grass fed
milk or yogurt
sources (raw grass fed butter, coconuts and
coconut oil, olives and olive oil and avocados)
If you think going on a gluten-free diet limits eating choices and
preparations, you'd be surprised to know that it won't. Type "gluten-free recipes" on a search engine and you'll see a wide
variety of gluten-free recipes, ranging from savory to sweet.
and delicious example is this Coconut Flour Almond Meal Pancakes
Recipe from MindBodyGreen: 30
Almond Meal Pancakes Recipe
1/2 cup Dr.
Mercola's coconut flour
1/3 cup almond
teaspoons baking powder
Dr. Mercola's coconut oil, melted
1/3 cup raw
cow's milk or coconut milk
A pinch of Dr.
Mercola's Himalayan salt
1 to 2
tablespoons organic, raw grass fed butter,
plus more for serving
syrup to drizzle (optional)
In a large
bowl, mix all the dry ingredients: the
coconut flour, almond meal, baking powder
in the wet ingredients: the eggs, coconut
oil, milk and vanilla. Mix until the batter
is smooth. (If it feels a little dry, add
more milk until it reaches the consistency
Heat a large
skillet over medium high heat. Add the
butter and allow it to melt, then add scoops
of batter (about a 1/4 cup each) for silver
dollar pancakes. Cook for about a minute on
each side until golden brown. Slather with
butter and drizzle maple syrup as desired.
This recipe makes
about 16 small pancakes.
Cooking time: 10
Additional Reminders When Following a Gluten-Free
Gluten Free & More magazine highlights these
important tips for people who are following a
gluten-free diet: 31
Read labels carefully:
Knowing how to read labels properly will
greatly help if you're following a
gluten-free diet. Ideally, never assume
something is gluten-free even if the word
"gluten" isn't anywhere in the list. 32
As mentioned earlier, some manufacturers
purposely use other names to hide gluten in
If you're in doubt, don't buy the
product: If you cannot verify that
the product is free of grains, don't buy or
eat it at all. The same principle applies if
you cannot find an ingredients list on the
Remember that being wheat-free
doesn't automatically make a food
gluten-free: This is because spelt,
rye or barley-based ingredients, all of
which contain gluten, may be used in
products with a wheat-free label on them.
Introduce new foods slowly:
Ensure that you incorporate only one new
food at a time, and take note of symptoms
before adding another item.
Be a "food detective":
Call, email or write a letter to a food
manufacturer to verify a product's
ingredients. Take note of the ingredient and
the lot number of the food. Once you are in
touch with a representative, clearly state
your concerns and be persistent, polite and