What Is Gluten?

What is gluten? If you are after answers to this and some of the most commonly asked questions about gluten and coeliac disease, you’ve come to the right place.

We’ve got the basics covered, and then some, and encourage you to let us know in the comments if you feel anything is missing or needs updating. It helps us keep this page relevant for readers like yourself.

See also: The Only A-Z Gluten Free Directory You Need

Everything has been compiled from credible health sources that you know you can trust. They are even referenced throughout and at the end of this article, just in case you fancied a bit of further reading.

Last updated: Sunday, 12th August 2017

Frequently Asked Questions

A. What is gluten?

Simply put, gluten is a dietary protein which can be found in wheat, barley and rye. Common examples of food containing gluten are pizza and pasta. Why did it have to be the best things in life?

While most are obvious, you can also find gluten in unsuspecting places, such as beer (often brewed with barley), takeaways and even soy sauce. Therefore, it is always best to read the label before consuming, or using, any food or drink.

It is not all doom and gloom though, as there are plenty of gluten-free options and alternatives for you to choose from. Happy days.

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A. What is coeliac disease?

First of all, let’s clear up the common misconception that coeliac disease is an allergy, or an intolerance, to gluten. That simply isn’t true and it is defined as being an autoimmune condition and it is for life.

Your immune system is there to defend your body against infection. When someone with coeliac disease eats something containing gluten, it triggers an abnormal reaction from their immune system, which mistakenly believes it is under attack.

As your body tries to defend itself, it damages the lining of the small bowel (intestine) which prevents it from absorbing important nutrients and fluids. As a result, you can see the importance of following a strict gluten-free diet and why it should be taken seriously.

In case you were wondering, it can also be spelt ‘celiac’, which is commonly used around the rest of the world.

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A. How common is coeliac disease?

Coeliac disease is more common than you think and research suggests that it effects around 1 in 100 people, although the true figure can be argued as being higher than this.

Cases can easily be misdiagnosed for other conditions, such as irritable bowl syndrome (IBS), or even go undiagnosed, as people are often unaware of the condition or their symptoms are mild and go unnoticed. It took me years to realise what it was.

Reported cases of coeliac disease in woman are up to three times greater than in men and interestingly, if your parents or siblings have coeliac disease, your chances increase substantially to one in ten.

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A. What are the symptoms of coeliac disease?

Not everyone experiences the same symptoms and the severity can range significantly from one person to another.

The following list of symptoms is by no means exhaustive and has been split into two categories for ease. If you would like something more comprehensive, I would suggest visiting the NHS Choices site for more. It’s packed full of great information.

Gut-related symptoms General symptoms
Abdominal pain Tiredness
Bloating and passing wind Sudden or unexpected weight loss
Indigestion Hair loss
Constipation Anaemia

The good people over at CoeliacUK have put together a useful tool for anyone who thinks they might have Coeliac Disease. Highly recommend you head on over and give it a go:


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A. Are oats safe to eat?

Oats contain a protein, called avenin, which is similar to gluten. Whilst that may sound bad, it shouldn’t cause any alarm, as research shows that it is safe for most people with coeliac disease to eat.

The general concern is that oats can be contaminated, as other grains may be present during the production process. This can explain why people often experience symptoms after eating oats.

Yet there are reports that some people who are still sensitive to oats that are uncontaminated and labelled gluten-free.

The general guidance is that, as long as you are comfortable, you are free to include gluten-free oats in your diet at any stage. If you experience any symptoms or discomfort, you are recommend to follow up with your doctor for guidance.

Whilst eating oats has its benefits, such as being a great source of soluble fibre, just remember to ensure you only eat uncontaminated oats if you have coeliac disease. I know, it’s painful paying so much more for the privilege.

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Finally, let us know in the comments if there are any other questions you would like to see answered here.

Sources: Coeliac UK, NHS Choices and NICE


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