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What is gluten?

Updated: Feb 11

Gluten is a general name for the proteins found in wheat (wheatberries, durum, semolina, spelt, farina, farro, graham, khorasan wheat and einkorn), rye, barley and triticale – a cross between wheat and rye. Gluten helps foods maintain their shape, acting as a glue that holds food together.



What is coeliac disease?

Coeliac disease is an auto immune condition where the body

attacks itself, following ingestion of proteins found in wheat, rye

and barley. Symptoms include bloating, diarrhea, constipation,

malabsorption of food, fatigue, dermatitis, and peripheral

neuropathy. The overactive immune system causes damage to

the microvilli in the small intestine, preventing full absorption

of nutrients, and often accompanied by intestinal permeability

where food particles cross the gut lining.


The overactive immune system causes damage to the microvilli

in the small intestine, preventing full absorption of nutrients,

and often accompanied by intestinal permeability where food

particles cross the gut lining.


What is NCGS/NCWS?

Non-coeliac gluten/wheat sensitivity is a condition where intestinal and extra-intestinal symptoms are triggered by gluten/wheat ingestion, in the absence of coeliac disease and wheat allergy. Short-chain fructans (fructo-oligosaccharides) or α-amylase/trypsin inhibitors (ATIs), rather than gluten may be the cause of gut pain, constipation or diarrhea. Systemic manifestations include tiredness, headache, joint or muscle pain, leg or arm numbness, ‘foggy mind,’ dermatitis or skin rash, depression, anxiety, and anemia. There is no test for this sensitvity, often considered after other diseases have been ruled out.


What grains are gluten free?

  • Rice - brown is preferred as will have less impact on blood sugar

  • Corn (even popcorn)

  • Amaranth

  • Buckwheat

  • Gluten free oats

  • Millet

  • Quinoa

  • Sorghum

Importance of maintaining fibre intake

The recommended daily intake for adults of fibre in the UK is 30g

daily, and many of us don’t manage to eat this amount. In addition to

wholegrains, fibre can be found in;

  • Pulses – peas, beans and lentils

  • Potatoes – baby/charlotte have less starch than maris piper

  • Fruits and vegetables

  • Nuts and seeds

Alternative foods to focus on

  • Eggs,

  • Lean cuts of meat

  • Fish and shellfish

  • Herbs and spices

  • Dairy – milk, cheese, natural yoghurt with probiotics or ‘live’

Where can I find gluten free foods?

Most supermarkets will have a ‘free from aisle’, however these packaged products can be full of sugar, preservatives, bulking agents which could present their own gut problems. Whole foods or home baking is encouraged to allow the gut to heal. Alternative flours are becoming more available; however these specialist online shops are useful for finding harder to source ingredients:


Real Food Source

Doves Farm

Sous Chef

Holland & Barrett

Whole Foods

Marks and Spencer


Where can I find more information?

Coeliac UK

Even if not coeliac, there are lots of recipes ideas, where to eat out, a barcode scanner app, guides for travelling abroad.


The Gut Stuff

An introduction to general gut health and our microbiome (gut bugs) for wider reading.

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