Gluten Sensitivity

Gluten is a protein contained in the grains wheat, barley, rye, and oats. It is a unique protein based on its structure that lends a doughy/elastic consistency to flours derived from these grains. This is why over the centuries, gluten-containing grains have come to be used so extensively in breads and other baked goods.

Gluten sensitivity implies that there is an ongoing immune reaction to gluten in the diet, usually detected as antibodies against a subprotein of gluten called gliadin. Although recently these antibodies were looked for only in the blood and are found in 12% of the general American public, the research of Dr. Kennith Fine has revealed that these antibodies can be detected in the stool in as many as 35% of what are otherwise normal people (U.S. and International patents pending). If high risk patient populations are tested, or people with symptoms, the percentage usually exceeds 50%. It makes sense that the antibodies are more easily detected in the intestine because the immune system reaction to food is mainly a response occurring inside the intestinal tract. Thus, the end product of intestinal transit, stool, is the most logical (albeit more messy) place to look. This is the rationale of the new tests developed by EnteroLab.

The nature of the toxicity, although to some extent stems directly from the chemical nature of gluten, is mostly due to a reaction that occurs by the immune system of individuals in possession of certain genes that recognize gluten for the foreign protein that it is and hence toxic. The immune system genes in control of this reaction are actually not rare, and may be present in up to 60% of Americans based on the research of Dr. Kenneth Fine. It is speculated that the structure of gluten may be similar to an infectious agent (for example a virus) and that is really why the gene is present in the immune system in the first place. However, there are other, as of yet undetermined, genes that control whether or not a toxic reaction will occur, and further, whether and how much the reaction will result in damage to the intestine and other tissues such as the thyroid. Many thyroid problems may be linked to gluten intolerance. Click here to read about thyroid issues.

The following grains and foods should not be eaten by anyone that has gluten sensitivity. Eating only a small amount of gluten has an adverse effect for months if a person has an autoimmune reaction.

These gluten grains are not tolerated:

  • Wheat
  • Kamut
  • Couscous
  • Spelt
  • Rye
  • Oats
  • Barley

Other Sources of Gluten:

  • Marinades
  • Malt
  • Modified Food Starch
  • Pasta
  • Croutons, Stuffing and Breading
  • Beer, Ale, Malt Vinegar
  • Soy Sauce (unless it says “wheat free”)
  • Barley Malt
  • Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein

Beers, ales, lagers and malt vinegar should be avoided. They are made from gluten containing grains.

Many commercial products such as hot dogs, sausages, cold cuts, soups, baked beans, some nutritional supplements and prescription drugs utilize gluten containing grains as stabilizers and fillers. Check the labels.

The following foods are tolerable, they are non-gliadin grains and are safe to eat:

  • Gluten-free Oats
  • Millet
  • Amaranth
  • Buckwheat
  • Rice
  • Arrowroot
  • Corn (organic)
  • Tapioca
  • Soy (organic)
  • Quinoa

Questionable foods

  • Soy
  • Wheat Grass
  • Barley Grass

Soy contains a smaller amount of gliadin than other grains. Depending upon your level of tolerance soy may or may not be a problem. Avoid soy isolate used in protein powders and bars, it contains eight times the concentration of gliadins as regular soy. Some people who are gluten sensitive can not tolerate wheat grass or barley grass.

If you have specific allergies to certain non-gluten grains, avoid them also. Mucus membranes may heal over a period of 6-12 months, as the membrains heal many allergies may disappear.

There are a number of good web sites. includes eating out suggestions in San Diego as well as other educational information and links. has good information about what tests work and why and allows you to order Enterolab genetic tests for gluten intolerance. They also offer a great page on frequently asked questions.