What is gluten?

Margaret Floyd
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

Gluten is the primary protein in wheat, rye and barley. This seemingly harmless protein has become one of the top allergens, and many people are sensitive to gluten without realizing it. This wouldn't be problematic if gluten weren't so ubiquitous in processed foods.

Eat Naked: Unprocessed, Unpolluted, and Undressed Eating for a Healthier, Sexier You

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Eat Naked: Unprocessed, Unpolluted, and Undressed Eating for a Healthier, Sexier You

Eat Naked with Margaret Floyd for a Sexier You Are you fed up with counting calories? Confused by all the diet hype? Want to eat delicious, real food and look and feel great? Leading...
Dr. Neal D. Barnard, MD
Psychiatrist (Therapist)

Gluten is a natural protein found in wheat, barley and rye. It is nutritious, providing healthful protein for the body. However, just as some people are sensitive to strawberries or peanuts, some people (about one in ten adults) react to gluten, too. For them, it is important to avoid gluten-containing foods.

Dr. Mark Hyman, MD
Family Practitioner

Gluten is a protein found in wheat that is hard to digest, and it can be very inflammatory. In this video, functional medicine expert Mark Hyman, MD, describes what gluten is and its consistency, and the types of wheat products you can find it in.

Susan Taylor
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, barley and related cereal grains such as triticale, spelt and kamut. If you are diagnosed with celiac disease, even a small amount of gluten can be harmful. With celiac disease, foods containing gluten are poorly absorbed due to damage to the small intestine. By making the lifelong commitment to strictly follow a gluten-free diet and avoid foods containing wheat, rye, barley, commercial oats and related cereal grains, your small intestine is able to heal.

Nancee Jaffe, RD
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

Gluten is a type of protein called a storage protein. It is found in some grains, mainly in wheat, barley and rye. The word gluten comes from the Latin word for glue. Gluten gives that sticky, elastic quality that’s in doughy wheat products. It's also what helps the dough to rise.

Gluten is found in many other things besides wheat, barley and rye. It's present in lots of their derivatives, such as meat substitutes. Gluten can be found in medications, candies and even potato chips.

Two proteins that are found within the gluten storage protein: gliadins and glutenins. Gliadin is the component that can be very problematic for some gluten-intolerant people.

Gluten is a composite protein, made up of the smaller protein molecules gliadin and glutelin, and it’s found in many grains, including wheat, barley, rye, oats, spelt and kamut. These gluten proteins constitute as much as 80 percent of the protein in wheat. Non-grass grains such as corn and rice do not contain these proteins and are not gluten-based foods, despite the fact that they are often categorized this way. So, those who are trying to eliminate gluten are still able to consume rice and corn. Gluten intolerance is caused by incomplete digestion of gliadin proteins.

Continue Learning about Protein


We hardly ever eat straight protein, but get it from foods like meats, fish, and soy, along with fats and carbohydrates in a protein package. Almost all reasonable diets provide enough protein for your body to break down into the ...

building blocks knows as amino acids. Recent interest in protein has been created by studies showing that diets high in protein and low in carbohydrates are at least as effective as low fat higher carbohydrate diets. Severe lack of protein can cause malnutrition diseases, but there is little evidence that high levels of protein do anything harmful.

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.