What is Gluten?

by Carol Kicinski on October 2, 2010

What is Gluten? Image

First of all let me just make this perfectly clear – I am not a doctor! Nor am I a scientist, a nutritionist or any kind of practitioner of any sort – except maybe I perform some black magic in the kitchen! This is just what I have learned from 15 years of research and personal experience.  Dr Vikki Peterson, wrote the best book I have read on gluten.

What is gluten?

Gluten is a sticky protein found in wheat, rye and barley. It is also in most oats – not because of the oat itself but because of the way it is processed. It is what makes pizza dough so stretchy, bread rise and pasta hold together.

Remember when you were a kid and you made paper-mache with paper, flour and water?  Well, the paper and water were not sticky.  The “glue” came from the flour!  That’s “gluten”.  It’s even the same root word – “glue”!

Gluten is a substance that can make your body pretty ill if you can’t tolerate it.

To get a good a more technical explanation, click here.

How can gluten affect the body?

Well…understanding how it is “glue” gives you a clue now. It gums-up-the-works.! It literally gums-up the lower intestine and food absorbson becomes minimized (leaving a person always “hungry”) and a lot of other problems arise.

People who can not tolerate gluten can suffer from a wide variety of aliments including seizures, bloating, intestinal problems, compromised immune systems, depression, anxiety, ADHA (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), autism, adrenal exhaustion, and thyroid problems just to name a few of the not so pleasant results.

Who has it?

Approximately 1 in 130 people has the worst reaction, now labeled, “Celiac Disease” – the most violent reaction in which one can end up in the hospital from gluten intake.

Approximately 7% to 8% have a strong  “gluten intolerance” – get headaches, bloated stomachs, intestinal problems etc.

In September 2010, on the Oprah Winfrey Show, Dr. Christiane Northrup, author of Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom and The Wisdom of Menopause, stated that 1 out of every 4 women suffer from gluten intolerance.

About a quarter of U.S. adults (25% of the population) ) are either trying to reduce or completely avoid gluten in their diets, according to the marketing firm, NPD (National Product Development) Group Inc.

Some people find they simply “feel better”, don’t “feel so bloated” after a meal and many commonly find that their diet “all of a sudden works” when they cut out the gluten!

What’s the cure?

Unfortunately there is no CURE for gluten intolerance or Celiac Disease. The only thing you can do is stay away from gluten. Don’t eat it! Most people will start to feel better with in days of removing gluten from their diets if they can’t tolerate it.  It’s one health issue that you don’t take a pill for!!  You just stop eating gluten!!

Where does it hide?

Now staying away from gluten sounds simple enough. OK, no more bread, pizza, pasta. Piece of cake (pardon the pun!) Oh, if only it were that simple.

Unfortunately gluten hides out in many places you would not immediately think. Like jelly beans, popsicles, processed meats, canned tomato soup, soy sauce. A huge amount of processed food contains gluten. As does some lipstick, soaps, shampoos, toothpaste, vitamins, nutritional supplements and medicine.

Some things to look out for on food labels include:

modified food starch



textured vegetable protein


caramel color


soy sauce

For a good list of safe products click here and unsafe products click here.

The point is BEWARE.


Educate yourself. Don’t just assume that the turkey you are about to put in your mouth is safe. (Yes, some turkey brands contain gluten!!!)

So what now?

My philosophy is not to focus on what you CAN’T EAT but to focus what you CAN EAT. There is a whole big beautiful world of naturally gluten-free foods out there! Vegetables, fruit, unprocessed meats, most cheeses, fish, seafood.

The world of gluten-free eating is abundant!

There are also really great gluten-free alternatives for breads, cookie, pastries and cakes.

My advice is first stay away from the gluten-free alternatives until your taste buds have a chance to re-adjust or until you find the ones that TASTE GOOD! Continue to experiment. Find the brands you like.

Buy an automatic bread maker and utilize the gluten-free bread mixes and enjoy freshly baked gluten-free bread.

Personally, I can live without bread and pasta. What I can’t live without is good health, vigor and energy.  Learn to cook gluten free and all the breads and pastas become yours again!

Celebrate the abundance of gluten-free living and the rewards will be plentiful.

You might want to get my booklet (it’s FREE) on Setting Up Your Gluten Free Kitchen – it’s on the top, right side of this page.

You can always email me with questions – I read all emails – no auto-responders!

I hope this helps a little!



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