Home Understanding Gluten What is Gluten?

What is Gluten?

Gluten is the name for a range of proteins found in wheat and some other grains such as barley and rye. The word comes from the latin word for glue, which is appropriate as it is gluten that gives dough its elasticity and helps bread rise and helps give bread its characteristic chewy texture.

Are oats and corn safe for someone with coeliac disease?

Oats contain avenin, a different type of gluten from gliadin, the problem protein in wheat. However the main cause of concern with oats is that of cross-contamination although it is relatively easy to find g-f certified oats. Bob’s Red Mill, a US company that grows oats on g-f dedicated fields and processes them in a dedicated g-f facility (along with over 70 other g-f products, including oat flour) note that ‘a small percentage of people with coeliac disease may not tolerate even the purest of oats’, so with this one it is a matter of careful trial.

Similarly, maize (corn) may also be problematic. Scientists at the university of Milan have discovered that maize prolamins contain amino acid sequences that resemble wheat gluten peptides that can cause problems for coeliacs.

Are there any grains that are safe for coeliacs to eat?

Unless they suffer cross-contamination issues, millet, sorghum, white, black and wild rice, as well as quinoa and amaranth, are all gluten-free. Despite the suffix ‘wheat,’ buckwheat, which has a nutty texture and taste and is nutritionally dense, is safe to eat.

Photograph by Sharon Drummond.