The Gluten Game


Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley. More specifically, molecules known as gliadin and glutenin combine to form this protein. Proteins are initially broken down by our stomach acid before heading to our intestinal tract where digestive enzymes, which have been released from the pancreas, continue to break them down in to peptides and individual amino acids. However, gluten acts a little differently. Most proteins take about 60 minutes to be dismantled, but components of gluten can resist digestion for up to 20 hours, with gliadin (the larger component of gluten) particularly resistant to digestive enzymes.

It is during this time frame that these undigested gluten peptides can trigger a threat in the gut followed by the immune system unleashing a response. People may experience bloating, flatulence and diarrhoea as well as fatigue and abdominal discomfort.

It is widely understood that gluten is found in foods such as bread, pasta and cereals, but it is also used in lesser known products including soy sauce, salad dressings, beer and cosmetics, which can make total removal of gluten more challenging.


People who have been diagnosed with coeliac disease, a condition associated with chronic inflammation of the small intestine and atrophy of the microvilli which can lead to malabsorption of nutrients, will be advised to remove gluten from their lifestyle completely.

Those living with the following conditions may also benefit from following a gluten free diet; chrohn’s disease, colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, H. Pylori infections, gastroesophageal reflux disease, yeast infections, urinary tract infections and SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth).


For those suffering with thyroid dysfunction it may be favourable to remove gluten from your diet. This is in part due to the molecular structure of gluten which closely resembles the structure of a thyroid cell. This molecular mimicry can confuse the immune system, which mistakes gluten for an invader and inadvertently mounts an inflammatory response every time gluten is eaten. Removing gluten from the diet could decrease inflammation and thyroid antibody production whilst supporting the immune system.  


Adopting a gluten-free lifestyle can feel alienating, but there is now a wide range of information found online and a growing market of gluten-free products in supermarkets and restaurants that helps educate, inform and support the gluten-free community.

It is important to be mindful that gluten-free products may contain a variety of manufactured and processed ingredients including natural flavourings, bulking agents and preservatives which can also cause inflammation and trigger an immune response.  Rather than turn to gluten-free products there are many plant-based, whole-foods we can incorporate into our diet which include quinoa, amaranth, brown, white and wild rice, buckwheat, coconut flour, pea flour, rice flour, gram flour, potatoes, millet and teff. These alternatives also offer additional nutritional benefits; quinoa is high in protein, iron, B vitamins and magnesium, gram flour is high in protein, iron and fibre and amaranth is packed with protein, iron and calcium. Other options to consider include rice pasta, black bean spaghetti, chickpea pasta, gluten-free oats, lentils and sweet potatoes.

A positive aspect of cutting out gluten is that it helps you assess the foods you are eating and provides an opportunity to bring in more fruit, vegetables and legumes as part of a healthy, balanced diet, which simultaneously bolsters your immune system and prevents activation of an inflammatory response. With so much variety and access to information, support in this arena is more plentiful than ever.

If any of the above article has resonated with you and you would like to discuss any concerns further, please book in a consultation where we can identify triggers and create a bespoke nutritional plan tailored to your specific health needs.


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Fasano, A., and Catassi, C. (2008) ‘Celiac Disease’, Curr Opin Gastroenterol, 24(6), pp. 1-2. Available at:

Fasano, A. & Flaherty, S. (2014) Gluten Freedom. USA: Turner Publishing Group.

Harvard Health Publications (2009) ‘Getting out the gluten’., pp. 1-2. Available at:

Murphy, M. (2017) ‘Going Gluten-free some fact behind the fad’, Optimum Nutrition.

Myers, A. (2016). The Thyroid Connection. New York: Little, Brown and Company. pp. 32-164

National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (“NICE”). (2015) ‘Coeliac disease: recognition, assessment and management’,

Available at:

Sollid, LM., and Lundin, KEA. (2008) ‘Diagnosis and treatment of celiac disease’ Mucosal Immunology. 2(1), p.3

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William, A. (2016). Medical medium life-changing foods. United States: Hay House. p. 294