The term 'gluten' has become a household word in the recent years and truth is, I don't think many understand what gluten is, how to test for gluten sensitivity and truly how to avoid it - if needed.
Part of the confusion lies in the marketing campaign around 'gluten free' products. But the truth is gluten is far reaching and the true definition behind it is more complex.
What is Gluten?
Gluten is the generic name for certain types of 'proteins' found in the seeds of grasses.
The Two Meanings of Gluten
When you hear the term 'gluten', it most likely means this to you: a protein found exclusively in the gluten grains wheat, barley and rye that adversely affects people with celiac disease and gluten sensitivity.
Whenever you see something is 'gluten-free', by labeling standards - it means the product is free of the gluten proteins found in wheat, barley, and rye (not all gluten grains). This is the definition of gluten that most people know.
However, the term 'gluten' also can mean this: a storage protein found in all grains, not just in wheat, barley, and rye. 'Gluten', in this second definition, refers to proteins in all grains (rice, oat, corn, millet, and sorghum), not just those found in wheat, barley, and rye. This definition can be used in the term a 'grain-free' diet.
These additional grains that contain gluten (rice, oat, corn, millet, and sorghum) have been shown to contribute to persistent health issues for those with gluten sensitivity and celiac disease.
Some do fine with these grains in their diet. However, others find they plateau on the 'gluten-free' diet and may need to explore the other gluten grains, as well as cross reactivity of other gluten mimicking foods, like dairy.
Know Your Level of Gluten Sensitivity
A good starting point in exploring if you have a gluten sensitivity is knowing what level of sensitivity you have. Gluten sensitivity exists on a spectrum. At one end is Celiac Disease—an autoimmune reaction to gluten where the intestines are damaged—which only a small percentage of individuals have.
A much greater number of people have what is called non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) which may or may not cause intestinal damage or overt symptoms. Symptoms of NCGS vary greatly from one person to the next.
Going Gluten-Free or Grain-Free
Remember, we mentioned other grains (rice, oat, corn, millet, and sorghum) contain a form of gluten that some can react too. Sadly, this can complicate this picture.
To simplify the process, we always recommend:
Know your level of sensitivity to wheat gluten
Do a strict trial of gluten-free
Many, do amazing with this approach and they can now more easily decipher what symptoms gluten was contributing to. Others, feel better, then plateau and need to look further at the other grains and even other nutrients that mimic gluten reactivity, such as dairy. This is why doing a gluten-free trial, along with tracking symptoms can extremely useful.
Symptoms & Testing
The symptoms of gluten sensitivity can be far reaching and it can be hard to decipher whether gluten may be at the root of your symptoms. Additionally, when one does an elimination diet - it is near too impossible to avoid all the hidden sources of gluten, unless you really know what you are looking for.
For these reasons, we highly recommend testing. We can often get a clear picture on if someone has celiacs, however, it is said that their is no direct test to check for non-celiac gluten sensitivity-rather its a matter of exclusions.
All testing options have their limitations and many can offer a good layer of information. If looking to see a well-rounded view to if you are sensitive to wheat and gluten, then Vibrant Lab's Wheat Zoomer is a great option. You get a lot of useful information and data that can bring great insight.
We find testing can bring our clients a greater level of understanding and compliance in avoiding gluten once they can observe, from the test results, how their body is responding.
Wheat Zoomer Testing for Gluten Sensitivity?
The Wheat Zoomer is the most comprehensive, sensitive, and specific test on the market to determine the spectrum of wheat and gluten-related disorders. It also aids in the specific recognition of antibodies as it relates to intestinal permeability/leaky gut. Additionally, the panel tests for the HLA isoforms associated with celiac disease and wheat allergy testing is performed by checking for IgE antibodies against wheat.
This information, in turn, allows you to reduce, manage, and monitor the inflammatory effects of those sensitivities. This test will give you clear data, so you can be more confident in your choices.
Intestinal Antibody Detection:
All known deamidated gliadins
Alpha, alpha-beta, gamma and omega gliadin
HMW and LMW glutenin family
Zonulin protein and actin
tTG-DGP Fusion Peptides
Wheat germ agglutinin (WGA)
Differential transglutaminase: 2, 3 and 6
Total IgA and IgG
Non-gluten wheat proteins: Farinins, Globulins, Serpins & Amylase/Protease Inhibitors
Intestinal Permeability Markers:
Wheat Zoomer: Am I Gluten-Sensitive Package
The Wheat Zoomer results will offer a clear and precise answer on if you are sensitive to wheat gluten and your level of sensitivity. Additionally it it takes a deeper look at intestinal barrier stability/leaky gut and how gluten may be playing a role in the gut and autoimmunity.
Lastly, because going gluten-free can be overwhelming, we offer many supportive resources such as, a deep dive Starter Gluten Free Guide, Meal Plan, Recipe Bundle, Eating Out Tips and Healthy Snack Ideas.
At-home test kit (finger prick test.)
Lifestyle Starter Support Gluten Free Guide (17page)
4-Week Meal Plan - Dairy & Grain Free
Dairy & Grain Free - Recipe Bundle (10 of each: breakfast, lunch & dinner recipes)
Dairy & Grain Free - (24) Healthy Snack Ideas
Self Assessment Quiz
Personalized email review from our nutritionist with insights and recommendations.
If you are ready to stop wondering if gluten is affecting your health, then check out our ReBoot: Am I Gluten Sensitive? package to learn more.
ReBoot: Am I Gluten Sensitive? here.
Gluten Free: Cheat Sheet, here.
Blog: Autoimmunity, Part 2, here
Have A Nourishing Day!
Nourish Functional Health is an individualized, client-centered, science-based approach that empowers patients and practitioners to work together as a team to address the underlying root causes of health imbalances and promotes optimal wellness.
Rai S, Kaur A, Chopra CS. Gluten-Free Products for Celiac Susceptible People. Front Nutr. 2018;5:116. doi:10.3389/fnut.2018.00116
U.S. Food & Drug Administration. Gluten-Free Labeling of Foods.
Celiac Disease Foundation. Gluten-Free Foods.
Thompson T, Lee AR, Grace T. Gluten Contamination of Grains, Seeds, and Flours in the United States: A Pilot Study. J Am Diet Assoc. 2010;110(6):937-940. doi:10.1016/j.jada.2010.03.014