What’s The Deal With Gluten?

It seems like everywhere you go now‐a‐days, everyone’s throwing around the term “gluten-­free”. But what exactly is gluten and should everyone avoid it?

What is gluten?

Gluten is a protein that is found in a variety of grains. It’s located in the endosperm of the grain, which is where the highest Screen Shot 2013-07-01 at 11.55.26 PMpercentage of protein and carbohydrates are found.

Why can gluten be harmful?

One of the top foods that naturopathic doctors (NDs) clinically see associated with a variety of diseases is gluten. Research has shown that a gluten-­‐free diet can help improve autism¹, schizophrenia², bipolar disorder³ and ADD/ADHD⁴. It is also implicated in numerous autoimmune conditions such as multiple sclerosis⁵, type 1 diabetes⁶, celiac disease⁷, and psoriasis⁸, to name a few. Gluten can also cause less severe symptoms such as GI distress, brain fog, and even fatigue in those individuals that are sensitive.

What foods contain gluten?

The list below is not exhaustive so it’s important to read labels. Educating yourself about what’s in the food you’re eating is a great step you can take towards better health.  Or print out this notecard-sized gluten shopping guide to have a portable version for all your shopping needs.

  • ale
  • barley
  • beer and lager
  • bread
  • broth
  • brown rice syrup
  • bulgar
  • candy
  • cereal
  • cereal binding
    Wholly Sourdough
    mystuart / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND
  • couscous
  • durum
  • farina
  • faro
  • flavored rice
  • gluten, gluten flour
  • graham flour
  • kamut
  • luncheon meats
  • malt (malt extract, malt flavoring, malt syrup, malt vinegar)
  • marinades
  • matzoh meal
  • oats (most commercial brands, oat bran, oat syrup)
  • orzo
  • pasta
  • rye
  • salad dressing sauces
  • seasonings
  • seitan (aka wheat meat)
  • semolina
  • soy sauce
  • spelt
  • stuffing
  • triticale
  • wheat (bran, germ, starch)

Is gluten in other products besides food?

Unfortunately, yes. Gluten can also be found in supplements and pharmaceuticals as fillers as well as in some cosmetics such as lipstick and lip balm or gloss. It can even be found in Play-­Doh.

Gluten-­free resources

  • The Complete Idiots Guide to Gluten Free Cooking by Jean Duane
  • Wheat-­Free Recipes and Menus by Carol Fenster
  • Gluten Free Gourmet Series by Bette Hagman
  • Gluten-Free Goddess Recipes
  • Adventures of a Gluten Free Mom
  • Try Googling “gluten-­free recipes” to find your own favorite resources. Don’t forget to pass along any great finds!

As with anything health related, be sure to contact your doctor first.  To find a naturopathic doctor who is educated in all things nutrition, click here.  What are your favorite gluten-free resources or recipes?  Share below 🙂


1. Whiteley, P., et al. “A Gluten-­Free Diet As An Intervention for Autism and Associated Spectrum Disorders: Preliminary Findings. Autism. March 1999; 3(1): 45-­65.
2. Kraft, B.D., et al. “Schizophrenia, gluten, and low-­carbohydrate, ketogenic diets: a case report and review of the literature.” Nutrition & Metabolism.  2009; 6(10).
3. Dickerson, F., et al. “Markers of gluten sensitivity and celiac disease in bipolar disorder.” Bipolar Disorders. Feb 2011; 13(1): 52-­58.
4. Niederhofer, H., et al. “A Preliminary Investigation of ADHD symptoms in persons with celiac disease.”  Journal of Attention Disorders. Nov 2006; 10(2): 200-­204.
5. Reichelt, K-­‐L., et al. “IgA Antibodies against gliadin and gluten in multiple sclerosis.” Acta Neurologica Scandinavica. October 2004; 110(4): 239-­241.
6. Huber, D., et al. “Early Infant Feeding and Risk of Developing Type 1 Diabetes-­Associated Autoantibodies.” JAMA. 2003; 290(13): 1721­‐1728.
7. Ventura, A., et al. “Duration of exposure to gluten and risk for autoimmune disorders in patients with celiac disease.” Gastroenterology. August 1999; 117(2): 297‐303.
8. Michaelsson, G., et al. “Psoriasis patients with antibodies to gliadin can be improved by a gluten-­free diet.” British Journal of Dermatology. Jan 2000; 142(1): 44­‐51.

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