What is gluten anyway?

Food allergy formula

What is gluten, anyway?!

It is estimated that 15 million Americans have food allergies and roughly 3 million Americans have celiac disease. According to the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center, 95% of Americans have undiagnosed celiac disease.

So what then is gluten and why should we be concerned?

Gluten is a protein found in wheat products including: wheat durum, spelt, rye, barley, to name a few. Gluten acts as a binding agent, like glue, that helps foods maintain their shape. While, celiac disease is an autoimmune disease propagated by an abnormal immune response to the peptides found in wheat gluten, gluten itself is pro-inflammatory protein. This means that it can lead to inflammation whether you have celiac disease or not (more on that below).

What are the symptoms of celiac disease?

It is estimated that there maybe over 300 different symptoms associated with celiac disease. However, the most commonly seen with celiac disease include: diarrhea, constipation, heartburn, joint pain, fatigue, and eczema. Some people with celiac may actually have no symptoms. In addition, you can develop celiac disease at any point in your life.

Why is gluten thought to be such a problem?

There is much hype nowadays about gluten, and that people who elect to go gluten-free, often “feel better” without having any test to confirm they actually have an allergy to gluten or being tested for celiac disease.

Research has found that the structure of gluten itself, is what causes the damage to the gut and can lead to increased intestinal permeability aka leaky gut. Also, gluten’s structure is quite different than other proteins, making it harder for our body to process it and digest it properly, also making it susceptible for causing damage in the gut.

It is the “leaky gut” that allows proteins and food particles to enter the bloodstream when they are not supposed to, leading to inflammation in the gut. This inflammation can cause further digestive problems and by food particles easily passing into the bloodstream can increase the likelihood of the immune system attacking those foods, creating a food allergy.

Gluten can affect more than just the gut

More and more research is coming out about gluten’s effect on not only the digestive system but its effects on the brain. This work has the basis for the very popular book Grain Brain, by Dr. David Perlmutter. Dr. Perlmutter, a renowned neurologist, points out, that gluten has the capacity to cross into the brain, leading to inflammation. This inflammation in the brain may be the cause of several disorders like ADHD, anxiety, migraines, to name a few.


If you suspect that you may have food allergies, gluten-related disorders, or celiac disease, give us a call today (425) 686-4498 to learn how we can help you find relief and ease from your digestive symptoms.

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Dr. Ellie Heintze, ND, LAc, is a naturopathic doctor and acupuncturist in Bothell, WA at her practice Starting Point Acupuncture. She is a pain specialist, seeing people who suffer from chronic pain, migraines, as well as digestive issues. Offering pain relief injections, acupuncture, facial rejuvenation, and nutrition consults. Most insurances accepted. Dr. Ellie Heintze is also the author of the book, A Starting Point Guide to Going Gluten-Free on Amazon.

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(425) 686-4498

Dr. Ellie Heintze, ND, LAc

  • Master’s Degree in Acupuncture
    Bastyr University
  • Doctorate in Naturopathic Medicine
    Bastyr University
  • Master’s Degree in Chemistry
    Northern Arizona University
Dr. Heintze Acupuncturist and Naturopathic Doctor

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