All About Gluten and Celiac Disease

What exactly is Gluten?


To be exact and scientific about the composition of the gluten, gluten is made of glutelins and prolamins and is found in grass-based grains. In short, all the proteins found in wheat, rye, barley, triticale, and oat are gluten. Gluten can be easily found in our daily snacks, foods, such as bread, flour, wheat, etc. There is no specific protein found amongst all the proteins in the above food group is called protein, so all the proteins present in the above food category is called Gluten.

What we know for a fact is that prolamins present in wheat, barley, oat, and rye are very dangerous for those who are suffering from Celiac disease. As far as Oat goes, the prolamins present in Oat, Avenin, can trigger an autoimmune response at a shallow magnitude. While many countries provide gluten-free oats, countries such as Australia and New Zealand do not accept oats as gluten free.


What does Gluten do?


As the word Gluten suggests, it helps glue and keeps the food together. It helps keep the bakery based items together, which is why all the bread, pasta, cake, pastries, pizzas and all the other products that we see, they are held in shape due to the presence of gluten. Gluten is not just there to add the shape but also makes the product taste better. Furthermore, gluten can be extensively found in conditioners, cosmetics, medication, and shampoos.


Where is Gluten found?


As mentioned before, it can be easily found in wheat, rye, barley, and oat. Gluten can directly or indirectly since there are products in the product which help enhance the quality of the gluten in foods. Wheat starch, barley malt, or wheat bran, these commonly available products contain gluten which is to be avoided at all costs if you are a celiac patient. Even products like baking powder contain gluten to the extent that you may never want to eat anything from the bakery unless it is explicitly labeled as Gluten Free.


What are the rules for gluten-free labeling?


All countries have their own specific rules for labeling gluten-free products. As far as Europe and the US go, 20 parts per million, which is 0.002% gluten content is considered and labeled gluten free. For Australia and New Zealand, any food item labeled gluten-free shouldn’t contain gluten if tested. As for low gluten based products, they offer 200 parts per million of gluten.


What is Celiac disease?


Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder, where, instead, the immune system protecting the body, attacks the body in the presence of gluten. Small intestines are composed of villi. Villis help expands the surface of the intestine and helps nutrients to get absorbed in a sufficient amount of time. In the presence of gluten, the villi get damaged. This process is called Villious Atrophy. The longer the gluten is present in your body, the damage is prolonged. In worst cases, the villis may even be gone if left undiagnosed. If that happens, the body will not be able to absorb nutrients.


Research shows that 1 out of approximately 100 people is diagnosed with Celiac disease. People suffering from celiac disease are very likely to transfer it to their first-degree relatives or may very well get it from their first-degree relatives with a 10% chance. While these figures are not to be concluded as firm and authentic, they are relatively authentic.


Where does it come from?


Celiac disease does not just come alone from gluten but has to fulfill a certain set of requirements. If one has the genetic disposition, gluten consumption, and a trigger. While the former two are neglected and are not in control as such, the trigger is what starts it all. Whether it is surgery, pregnancy, accident, or anything physical internal or external, it is what starts the whole process.


Celiac disease, contrary to the above statement, heavily relies on the presence of gluten. But the part where genetic disposition comes, that is where one needs to very careful. Just because your parents of first-degree relatives may not have it, that is not to say that it is absent in your genes and it could be wandering there. Sources suggest that around 95% celiac patients have gene HLA-DQ2 while the remaining have HLA-DQ8. What is strange is that around 30% people without celiac disease may inherit one of the mentioned genes and the development of disease may revolve around 36-53%


How do I know if I have Celiac disease?


So far, the only way to diagnose celiac disease is by performing the endoscopy of the small intestine. Before that goes, a blood sample is taken to check for the gluten antibodies, but it’s not a very reliable test. The results can be obtained at a better rate if tTG-IgA and DGP IgG tests are combined. Blood tests also reveal the genetic disposition for celiac disease.


However, even endoscopy can provide a false negative. A false negative, in this case, may be due to misinterpretation of the physician or perhaps the disease is in its developing stages.


What are the symptoms?


The symptoms mentioned below are rather common and must be consulted with a doctor before coming to any conclusion

  • Abdominal pain
  • Constipation, diarrhea
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Joint pains
  • Fatigue, weakness
  • Weight loss
  • Lowered immune system, leading to frequent periods of flu, cold, or other minute infections
  • Low calcium levels
  • Itchy skin or rashes
  • Numbness in hands or feet, as well as tingling


Celiac disease –  an autoimmune digestive disease that damages the villi of the small intestine and interferes with absorption of nutrients from food. What does this mean? Essentially the body is attacking itself every time a person with celiac consumes gluten (National Foundation for Celiac Awareness)
Once thought to be a rare “wasting” disease, it is now known that about one percent of the world’s population has Celiac disease, but about 97% of those people are undiagnosed.  This is frightening because of the severity of the disease, and the implications that come when it is left undiagnosed.  Celiac disease has been linked to lupus, lymphoma, liver disease, neurological problems, seizures, and many other potentially life threatening complications.
Celiac disease, when undiagnosed, can wreak internal havoc on your body and cause a list of symptoms a mile long.  The only current treatment for the disease is a strict gluten free diet.  This may sound simple enough, but it can be quite frustrating, especially when you throw in the fact that cross contamination or ingestion of a very small amount of gluten can do visible damage to the small intestines.  Also, the FDA does not currently require gluten to be listed under allergen warnings on labels so that shopping can be a nightmare.