What You Need to Know About Wheat Gluten and Celiac Disease

What You Need to Know About Wheat Gluten and Celiac Disease

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  1. What is Wheat Gluten, Anyway?

    Once the primary source of monosodium glutamate (MSG), the naturally occurring flavor enhancer often associated with food served in Asian restaurants, wheat gluten has for centuries also been used as a food source.  Made by washing wheat flour dough until all the starch dissolves, an insoluble elastic mass is left which is then cooked before being eaten.

    Also called seitan (as well as wheat meat, Mock Duck, gluten meat, or the “vegetarian white meat,”) wheat gluten has been a staple food among vegetarian monks of China, Russian wheat farmers, peasants of Southeast Asia, and Mormons of the US for centuries. According to Barbara and Leonard Jacobs in their popular cook book Cooking with Seitan, The Complete Vegetarian "Wheat-Meat" Cookbook, people who had traditionally eaten wheat also discovered a method to extract the gluten and create a meat-like product.

    Today, in many parts of the world, wheat gluten/seitan is used in place of soybean-based meat substitutes like tofu. Some types of wheat gluten have a chewy and/or stringy texture more like meat than most other substitutes, and is therefore sometimes preferred in Asian, vegetarian, Buddhist, and macrobiotic cuisines (particularly in Japan). Simulated duck made from wheat gluten is readily available throughout Asia, as well as in Asian markets in the US.

    Gaining popularity with the vegetarian sector (particularly in the US), gluten is often a key ingredient in “not-dogs” and in many other commercially-made, ready-to-eat products like wheat gluten burgers, sausage-style and chicken-style seitan, as well as fajita strips, and slices. Commercially prepared tubs or vacuum-packed bags of seitan soaking in marinade is readily available, and can also be found in the refrigerator or freezer section of many natural food stores.


    What are the Health Concerns Related to Wheat Gluten?

    A recent article published in The New England Journal of Medicine listed 55 "diseases" that can be caused by eating gluten, including osteoporosis, irritable bowel disease, inflammatory bowel disease, anemia, cancer, fatigue, canker sores, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, and almost all other autoimmune diseases.

    Additionally, wheat gluten is also linked to many psychological and neurological disorders, including anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, dementia, migraine headaches, epilepsy, and neuropathy (nerve damage), and even autism.

    While it used to be thought that gluten sensitivity, or “Celiac Disease,” as it is known, was confined to children who subsequently suffered diarrhea, weight loss, and failure to thrive, studies have now proven that there is no correlation between these factors and gluten sensitivity–and virtually anyone can develop related diseases.

    Celiac Disease is actually an autoimmune disease that creates inflammation throughout the body, with wide-ranging effects across all organ systems including the brain, heart, joints, and digestive tract, and can be the single cause behind various types of illnesses.

    While, of course, not all cases of depression or autoimmune disease can be traced to gluten consumption, should you be one of those who suffer any chronic illness related to these areas of health, gluten sensitivity should be considered and proper steps taken to eliminate 100% of the gluten from your diet. .


    Does this Mean that as Long as I Avoid Asian and Vegetarian Products I Have Nothing to Worry About?

    Not at all.  Wheat gluten is now a common ingredient in fast foods, processed and pre-packaged foods, as well as a growing number of wheat-related products (you probably have in your homes right now); gluten is turning up in places you might never suspect.

    Here is a partial list of common, everyday products and additives that often contain wheat gluten:

    > General


    Brown rice syrup

    Canned baked beans

    Cereal additives

    Condiments made with grain distilled vinegar

    Cooking sprays that contain grain alcohol 4



    Farina fried food in restaurants

    Gluten stabilizers

    Herbal teas made with malted barley

    Hydrolyzed Plant Protein (HPP)

    Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein (HVP)

    Modified food starch

    Most white pepper

    Oat gum

    Oils (not pure)


    Packaged pudding

    Some canned tuna

    Some cheese spreads and dips

    Some commercial candies

    Some commercial salad dressings

    Some corn syrups

    Some ice creams

    Some mustard powder

    Some preservatives

    Some sherbets

    > Vegetables

    Black- eyed peas, canned

    Pepper, chipotle in Adobo sauce, canned

    Spaghetti/marinara sauce (check ingredients)

    > Legumes and beans

    Bean paste (possible preservatives)

    Tofu (gluten content varies)

    > Starches / cereals






    Bread, white/wheat/rye



    Cornbread, packaged


    Crackers, saltine

    Crackers, graham

    Croutons, plain

    English muffins

    Wheat flour

    Hoagie rolls

    Melba toast, plain






    Noodles, Ramen


    Pasta, dry

    Potato products, frozen

    Tortilla, flour, 6-inch

    Barley, dry

    Cereal, oatmeal

    Cereal, Cream of Wheat brand

    Cereal, Kellogg’s All Bran Flakes


     > Dairy

    Cheese, blue (veined cheese)

    Cheese, cottage, low fat

    Cheese, fontina

    Cheese, goat

    Cheese, mozzarella, fresh

    Cheese, parmigiano-reggiano

    Cheese, pecorino-romano

    Cheese, ricotta, reduced fat

    Cool Whip

    Creamers, non-dairy

    Egg substitute (may contain unidentified vegetable gums)

    Ice cream

    Sour cream, non fat

    > Fats

    Mayonnaise, reduced calorie

    Pam vegetable spray

    Sour cream, reduced calorie

    > Sweets

    Chocolate, bakers, bittersweet (gluten-free if pure)

    Cocoa, dry, powered (gluten-free if pure, not a mix)

    Graham crackers (wheat)

    Pie, apple (wheat flour)


    Sherbet (check ingredients)

    Wafer, chocolate (wheat)


    For a more complete list of foods containing gluten visit: https://www.drgourmet.com/gluten/containsgluten.shtml)

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