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What Is Gluten?

What Is Gluten?

Gluten is a storage protein found in wheat, barley and rye. Gluten can also be found in derivative of wheat, barley and rye gains such as malt and brewer’s yeast. Gluten gives dough its elasticity, acting like a glue, giving bread its classic chewy, soft texture.

What Foods Contain Gluten?

Wheat Products (Triticum), Including:

  • Breads
  • Pastas
  • Cereals
  • Sauces
  • Candy Bars
  • Flour
  • Soups
  • Bakery Items
  • All species of wheat contain gluten, including durum, semolina, spelt, kamut, einkorn, faro and triticale. (Triticale is a hybrid of wheat and rye.)

what is gluten - bread wheat gluten

Barley Products (Hordeum vulgare), Including:

  • Soups
  • Beer
  • Malt
  • Brewer’s Yeast
  • Cereals

Rye Products (Secale), Including:

  • Certain Breads
  • Cereals
  • Beer
  • Rye Flour
  • Rye Milk
  • Any products containing triticale, a hybrid of wheat and rye.

Gluten is found in a wide variety of foods, even those you wouldn’t expect, such as soy sauce and even some french fries. Foods containing wheat, barley or rye contain gluten, but the protein can also be hidden in many foods as an additive, especially processed foods. Gluten can also sometimes be found in certain medications, personal hygiene products and more.

Wondering if a certain item is gluten-free? Learn to read labels, talk to manufacturers, and check out the Is It Gluten-Free section of our website.

Why is Gluten Bad for Some People?

A majority of people can tolerate eating gluten. However, those with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity (sometimes referred to as “gluten sensitivity” or “gluten intolerance”) suffer a variety of symptoms after consuming gluten.

Celiac disease (also referred to as celiac sprue, non-tropical sprue, and gluten-sensitive enteropathy) is a serious, genetic autoimmune disorder triggered by consuming gluten. When a person with celiac disease eats gluten, the protein interferes with the absorption of nutrients from food by damaging a part of the small intestine called villi. Damaged villi make it nearly impossible for the body to absorb nutrients into the bloodstream, leading to malnourishment and a host of other problems including some cancers, thyroid disease, osteoporosis, infertility and the onset of other autoimmune diseases.

Learn more about celiac disease.

Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity has been coined to describe those individuals who cannot tolerate gluten and experience symptoms similar to those with celiac disease yet lack the same antibodies and intestinal damage as seen in celiac disease.

Learn more about gluten sensitivity.

Gluten-Free Alternatives

There are a variety of grain, flour and starch alternatives that naturally do not contain gluten and thus can be consumed by those on a gluten-free diet. These include:

All grains are considered “high risk” for cross-contact because they are often grown, milled and manufactured near gluten-containing grains. “ Cross-contact” occurs when a gluten-containing food touches a gluten-free food. Eating even tiny amounts of gluten like this can cause damage to the small intestine and prevent nutrients from being absorbed into the bloodstream. Whenever possible, purchase naturally gluten-free grains, flours and starches that are labeled gluten-free and, also, certified gluten-free by a third party.

The Gluten-Free Diet

A gluten-free diet excludes all products containing wheat, barley and rye ingredients. Those who are gluten-free can still enjoy a healthy diet filled with fruits, vegetables, meats, poultry, fish, beans, legumes and most dairy products. Such ingredients are naturally gluten-free, and safe for individuals who do not have allergies to these respective food groups.

Learn more:


Think you may have celiac disease?

Symptoms Checklist