Gluten 101

Gluten bread

So in the last week health professionals told me that I should become gluten free for at least a month. I have to say so far it hasn’t been as bad as I first thought. However growing up in Asian on rice and rice vermicelli certainly has soften the blow. Did you know 20% of the average persons calories come from gluten? However over the last few years it has surprised me how many people are now turning to a gluten free diet and some out of choice not. So I thought now I am at least temporarily joining in I would investigate and feed it back to you

So lets start from the beginning what is gluten?

Gluten is a combination of 2 proteins called gliagin and glutenin that are found in wheat. Its what makes dough elasticity and want makes bread chewy. The gluten traps carbon dioxide, which ferments and creates the light fluffy nature of bread. Gluten is actually the most common food to be cut out of peoples diet with up to around 33% of the US population although only 1% have coeliac disease.

What’s Celiac Disease?

Celiac is autoimmune disease which is when you have a hypersensitivity reaction which is the same process you will get if you have asthma or hay fever. When proteins in gluten will enter the wall of the intestine in your gut your body’s white cells will recognises the antigen the protein and fight to destroy the and start a inflammatory process. This inflammatory process can damage the lining of the small intestine, which causes changes to the lining including atrophy, and weakening of the tight junctions that hold the cells together. The consequences of this can lease to problems absorbing nutrients which can lead to many different symptoms including osteoporosis and anaemia

What is gluten in?

  • Wheat: (bread, cereals, pizza, pasta, cakes)
  • Barley
  • Rye
  • Soya sauce
  • Emulsifiers, stock cubes
  • MSG


  • Diarrhoea, constipation
  • Abnormal pain
  • Bloating, gas
  • Weight loss
  • headaches
  • Nutrient malabsorption including low iron/anaemia
  • Fatigue


As Coeliac’s is caused my an autoimmune reaction the blood test for coeliac is looking for antibodies that would be produced if this reaction took place the particular ones they look for are: IgA + IgG.

Biopsy – if positive blood test they may do a biopsy of the small intestine and stools to confirm.

If only a small percentage of people are gluten intolerant or coeliac why are so many people on gluten free diets?

Many people can have NCGS – non coeliac gluten sensitivity or a gluten intolerance which is when you are negative for celiac’s but still get symptoms associated with the disease.

However many people are now starting to see a gluten free diet as a fad to lose weight or in attempt at being healthier. Cutting out on foods that contain gluten often helps people reduce their intake of carbohydrates as it is in bread, beer, cakes, pasta and pizza; food people attribute to increase weight and fat. Especially when people substitute theses foods for starches such as lentils and quinoa, which generally have better nutritional qualities. Murray said. “It’s hard to put a number on these things, but I would have to say that at least seventy per cent of it is hype and desire. There is just nothing obviously related to gluten that is wrong with most of these people.’’

However there is no research at the moment that proves the gluten will increase body fat at all.  There has been research into a gluten free diet restoring bone density and weight loss in patients with celiac’s but obviously eliminating something that you are allergic to and is making you malnutrious is definitely not the same! Furthermore many gluten free products are actually lower in many vital vitamins including Vitamin B. calcium, iron, zinc and magnesium.

Why is there such a rise in gluten intolerances?


One reason gluten intolerances are said to be on the rise worldwide is the western influence to many countries such as china or india where they diet was predomiently rice bases according to Prof Sanders at the Sheffield Institute of Gluten-Related Disorders.

Changes to agriculture:

We are quickly switching from the topic of science for a moment to history. Back in 1961 the Chorleywood process was developed to revolutionise bread making which involved using high speed machines which was not only quicker as a result saved money. However by fundamentally taking out the formation process out of baking it involves adding extra yeast (gluten), fats and enzymes. (Whitley, 2000)

While it is still debated amount scientists the exact differences in the protein structure from centuries ago to how it is produced today.Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, found no evidence that a changes in wheat-breeding practices is the cause of increased cases of celiac disease. However others are saying that due to the Chorleywood process we are now exposed to proteins that would have previously been digested in the fermentation process. Many people would have heard of this fermentation process but not realised, it’s the process that occurs when making sourdough bread.

Vital Gluten in bread:

Not only has the process by machinery changed the way we manufacture bread on a commercial scale but many companies will can extra gluten to their loafs. The extra gluten encourages a lighter and fluffier loaf that most people are looking for in their ideal bread. Joseph Murray, at the Mayo Clinic states “a major component of the bread we eat, and we don’t know much about it. It’s very important that we figure out what effect, if any, there is when we add all that extra gluten to bread.’’

Gluten free diets and diseases:

Gluten has gluten has linked to contributing to causing diseases like autism, depression, Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis and diabetes. The theory is supported by Dr. Alessio Fasano at Harvard and denotes gluten is a major contributor to inflammation in the brain and therefore directly effects the brains ability to regenerate and increases degeneration. There is also claims that it effects the transmission of particles across the blood brain barrier.However many disagree including Kesser from the Paleo code and say this a claim for all low carbohydrate diets not necessarily gluten itself.



Celiac Disease: Fast Facts. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Kasarda, D. D. (2013). Can an Increase in Celiac Disease Be Attributed to an Increase in the Gluten Content of Wheat as a Consequence of Wheat Breeding? Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry

Will a gluten-free diet really make you healthier? (2014, November 1). Retrieved from

Gluten free: health fad or life changing diet (2015)  From:

Biesiekierski, J. R., Newnham, E. D., Irving, P. M., Barrett, J. S., Haines, M., Doecke, J. D., et al. (2011). Gluten Causes Gastrointestinal Symptoms in Subjects Without Celiac Disease: A Double-Blind Randomized Placebo-Controlled Trial. The American Journal of Gastroenterology, 106(3), 508-514.

Hadjivassiliou M, et al. (1996) Does cryptic gluten sensitivity play a part in neurological illness? Lancet

Gonzalez, D., Mazure, R., Mautalen, C., Vazquez, H., & Bai, J. (1995). Body composition and bone mineral density in untreated and treated patients with celiac disease. Bone, 16(2), 231-234.

Bardella, M. T., Fredella, C., Prampolini, L., Molteni, N., Giunta, A. M., & Bianchi, P. A. (2000). Body composition and dietary intakes in adult celiac disease patients consuming a strict gluten-free diet. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 72(4), 937-939.

Whitney, 2009 Bread Matters. Andrew McMeel Publishing LLC Kansas, USA

This is your brain on Gluten. The Atlantic (2013) from:

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