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Gluten is very controversial these days.

Most sources claim that it is safe for everyone except those who have celiac disease.

On the other hand, some health experts believe that gluten is harmful for most people.

Bread group
Gluten is a family of proteins found in grains like wheat, rye, spelt and barley.

According to a recent survey, more than 30 percent of Americans actively try to avoid eating gluten.

This article explains what gluten is and how it can affect your health.

What is Gluten?

Gluten is a family of proteins found in grains like wheat, rye, spelt and barley.

Of the gluten-containing grains, wheat is by far the most commonly consumed.

The two main proteins in gluten are glutenin and gliadin. Gliadin is responsible for most of the negative health effects (1, 2)

When flour is mixed with water, the gluten proteins form a sticky network that has a glue-like consistency.

This glue-like property makes the dough elastic and gives bread the ability to rise when baked. It also provides a chewy, satisfying texture (3, 4).

Interestingly, the name glu-ten is derived from this glue-like property of wet dough.

Bottom Line: Gluten is a family of proteins found in grains like wheat, spelt, rye and barley. Gliadin and glutenin are the two main gluten proteins.

Why is Gluten Bad For Some People?

Most people tolerate gluten just fine.

However, it can cause problems for people with certain health conditions.

This includes celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, wheat allergy and some other diseases (5, 6).

Celiac Disease

Celiac disease, also spelled as coeliac disease, is the most severe form of gluten intolerance. It affects about about 0.7–1 percent of the population (7).

It is an autoimmune disorder and involves the body treating gluten as a foreign invader. The immune system attacks the gluten, as well as the lining of the gut (8).

This damages the gut wall and may cause nutrient deficiencies, anemia, severe digestive issues and an increased risk of many diseases (9).

The most common symptoms of celiac disease are digestive discomfort, tissue damage in the small intestines, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, headache, tiredness, skin rashes, depression, weight loss and foul-smelling feces (10, 11).

However, some people with celiac disease do not have digestive symptoms, but may have other symptoms like tiredness or anemia (12, 13).

For this reason, celiac disease can be very difficult to diagnose. In fact, up to 80 percent of people with celiac disease don’t know that they have it (7, 14).

Bottom Line: Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that makes the body attack gluten in the digestive system. This can cause severe digestive disorders and other health problems.

Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity

There are many people who do not test positive for celiac disease, but still react negatively to gluten.

This condition is called non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

It is currently not known how many people have this condition, but it has been estimated to be in the range of 0.5–13 percent (15).

Symptoms of gluten sensitivity include diarrhea, stomach pain, tiredness, bloating and depression.

There is no clear definition of non-celiac gluten sensitivity, but the diagnosis is made when a patient reacts negatively to gluten, but celiac disease and allergies have been ruled out (16, 17, 18, 19).

However, some experts believe this isn’t a real condition. They think the adverse effects are imaginary or caused by substances other than gluten.

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