What IS Gluten?


In case you’re ambushed on the street by a wiley reporter, I’d like to save you some embarrassment on national TV. This blog post will explain in simple terms what gluten is and why people are avoiding it.

As a little background, Jimmy Kimmel recently did a pretty funny piece on his show where his reporters asked people if they were gluten free, and if they said yes, they’d ask them what gluten was. See for yourself how many of them knew the answer…

Here’s the funny video.

So what is gluten?

Gluten is a protein. It’s actually two little proteins (gliadin and glutenin) packaged together, but we’ll ignore that for the purposes of simplicity. Gluten gives bread and other foods their stretchy, malleable consistency. That’s why a lot of gluten free foods just don’t taste quite like their glutenous alternatives.

What Grains Have Gluten?

  • wheat (so almost everything in America made from “flour”)
  • white flour
  • whole wheat flour
  • durum wheat
  • semolina
  • graham flour
  • triticale
  • wheat germ
  • wheat bran
  • spelt
  • rye
  • barley
  • oats (unless they’re marked “gluten free” – gluten only gets on oats during processing)
  • kamut

What Foods Have Gluten?

(Unless they’re marked as “gluten free”)

  • Pasta
  • Bread
  • Couscous
  • Flour Tortillas
  • Brownies
  • Cookies
  • Cakes
  • Muffins
  • Pastries
  • Cereal
  • Crackers
  • Granola bars
  • Beer
  • Oatmeal
  • Gravy
  • Dressings
  • Sauces and Soups
  • Soy Sauce
  • Modified Food Starch

The tricky thing is that gluten can show up in just about any packaged food out there, so if you’re trying to avoid it, you have to look at the ingredient list of every pre-packaged food you buy to make sure it doesn’t contain any of the things above.

Gluten Free Flours and Gluten Free Grains

These are all gluten free grains and flours that are common replacements for other grains in cooking and baking.

  • Rice (even glutinous rice) – brown rice, white rice, wild rice, red rice, black rice, all rice
  • Tapioca flour
  • Quinoa
  • Arrowroot
  • Gluten-free Oats (must say “gluten-free” on the package)
  • Millet
  • Gluten Free Oats
  • Almond flour
  • Coconut flour
  • Plantain flour
  • Sweet potato flour
  • Buckwheat
  • Sorghum flour
  • Fava been flour
  • Garbanzo bean flour
  • Corn flour/starch

Celiac.com is a great resource for finding out whether something is gluten free.

Why Go Gluten Free?

Gluten can cause an immune reaction in your body, and your immune system can cause all kinds of uncomfortable symptoms right away.

Short-Term Symptoms of Gluten Intolerance:

  • stomach pain
  • weight gain and water retention
  • puffy eyes
  • bloating
  • eczema
  • psoriasis
  • heartburn
  • headache/migraine
  • diarrhea/constipation
  • acne
  • fatigue
  • brain fog
  • anxiety/depression
  • anal itching
  • bloody stool

If your body doesn’t like gluten and you keep eating it, things can get even worse.

Long-Term Signs of Gluten Intolerance:

  • Celiac
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Type 1 Diabetes
  • Crohn’s Disease
  • Diverticulitis
  • Ulcerative Colitis
  • Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis
  • And many others

So while it may seem like a fad, it can be very serious, and at the very least, extremely uncomfortable for the people who are sensitive to gluten.

How To Do A Gluten Intolerance Test

If you have any of the symptoms above, it’s worth testing yourself to see if you have a gluten intolerance or sensitivity. Good news! There’s no doctors or blood tests necessary to test yourself for gluten intolerance. In fact, it’s often better if you DON’T go to a doc because their tests are limited and they may tell you you’re “fine to eat gluten” even when you’re not.

After all, there are many parts of gluten that could set off your immune system. You could be sensitive to the gliadin part or the glutenin part (remember I said those are the 2 little proteins in gluten?), and each of those has even smaller parts that you could be reacting to. Plus, docs usually only test your blood, and what you’d really need to find out if you’re sensitive to gluten is a full stool analysis, and those aren’t even totally complete yet.

So, it’s simple.

Just stop eating gluten for a month, and see how you feel.

Eat gluten-free foods instead of gluten-full foods for 30 days and watch to see if your symptoms get better, or if you start losing weight, or if your mood improves, or if you have more energy. Scan your body from head to toe every day and ask yourself, “Do I feel any different off gluten?”

If not, and you still have symptoms, try removing dairy as well. A lot of people who have gluten sensitivity also have dairy sensitivity, so just cutting out gluten won’t do the job. If you’re dairy free and you’re still having symptoms, cut out all grains and see how you feel.

Even gluten-free grains contain compounds and proteins that your body may be having an immune response to, so just do whatever it takes to make yourself feel better!

The Paleo Diet is Gluten and Dairy Free

The Paleo diet is gluten and dairy free because there are no grains or milk products whatsoever. If you’re interested in trying it out, we have very easy-to-use Paleo diet meal plans.

I hope this helps clear the gluten questions up! Please share this on Facebook or Twitter if you found it to be helpful!