Gluten: What Is It? How Does It Affect Your Health?

The subject of gluten has become more controversial in recent years due to related health concerns. Medical News Today reports that over 30% of Americans surveyed in a 2013 study said they make a concerted effort to eliminate gluten from their diet. Discussions about gluten typically arise when people start experiencing digestive distress.

What Is Gluten?

The Mayo Clinic defines gluten as a protein present in grains. Specifically, the gluten found in wheat, rye, and barley is linked to health problems. It is noteworthy that the gluten found in rice, corn, and quinoa does not typically cause problems and are often used as viable food substitutes.

Celiac Disease

Celiac disease represents the most serious disorder related to gluten intolerance. Medical News Today reports that an estimated 1% of the population suffers from this disease and that 80% of people diagnosed did not know they had it. Essentially, celiac disease is categorized as an autoimmune disorder that causes the immune system to react to gluten as a foreign invader by attacking the gluten and the gut’s lining.

Celiac disease is inherited. Physicians use blood tests to diagnose it. Some people don’t experience noticeable symptoms while others complain of severe diarrhea, constipation, fatigue, anemia, weight loss, skin rashes, headaches, bloating, and depression.

A gluten-free diet is mandatory for celiac patients. Fortunately, there is a thriving gluten-free grocery marketplace that makes it quite easy to substitute healthy options to replace favorite foods.

Wheat Allergy

Food allergies are a major problem for many people. While a wheat allergy is not technically the same as gluten intolerance, they are closely linked together. Since gluten and wheat are combined in many food products, many people suffering from wheat allergies avoid gluten altogether just to be on the safe side.

Barley and rye bread are two healthy alternatives for people with a wheat allergy. Many people with wheat allergies go gluten-free because it is the easiest way to avoid symptoms.

Non-celiac Gluten Sensitivity

While gluten does not bother most people, there are a large number of people that experience negative symptoms who don’t suffer from celiac disease. Medical News Today estimates that the percentage of people with a non-celiac sensitivity to gluten is in the range of 0.5 up to 13%.

This group of people tests negative for celiac disease but still experiences symptoms like stomach pain, bloating, fatigue, diarrhea, and depression. Once doctors rule out celiac disease and allergies, then people suffering from the symptoms mentioned above are often believed to be gluten sensitive.


A gluten-free diet is recommended for people struggling with celiac disease, wheat allergies, and gluten sensitivity. Eliminating bread, baked goods, and pasta from the diet is a good rule of thumb for limiting or avoiding gluten. Processed foods are also likely to contain gluten. There are many gluten-free products that can be substituted to ensure that people can still enjoy their favorite foods.


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