What is gluten?

What is gluten?

Gluten is a natural protein occurring in wheat and related types of cereals. This means that it is also contained in any food made with cereals containing gluten.

Types of cereals that contain gluten

  • Wheat
  • Rye
  • Spelt
  • Barley
  • Unripe spelt grain
  • Oats (unless certified gluten free)
  • Small spelt
  • Amelcorn
  • Kamut
  • Triticale

Foods containing gluten include flour, wheat starch, bread crumbs, pasta, muesli and all baked goods, from biscuits to pretzel sticks, to name just a few. Gluten also ends up in many foods during the manufacturing process and through binding agents, however.
While gluten’s nutritional value is only negligible, it offers favourable physiological and technological properties for working with flours. It is what makes flour form a sticky dough when combined with water. Gluten is also responsible for the dough’s elasticity and for it holding together and it lends crunchiness to bread and baked goods.

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Why is gluten so difficult for some people to digest?

In many cases, hereditary factors play a role in gluten intolerance. However, the immune system, infections, and diet can also be responsible. Be this as it may, not all intolerances are alike. In general, a distinction is made between three types of disorders: coeliac disease, gluten/wheat sensitivity, and wheat allergy. Often, these terms are used synonymously. But they entail completely different symptoms and challenges, for the individuals affected as well.

Abdominal pain, diarrhoea, and headaches are all commonly reported complaints. Symptoms may also include muscle aches and joint pain.

But before you stop eating bread and pizza altogether, you should make sure to have your symptoms diagnosed by a specialist. He or she will find out whether you have a gluten intolerance and if so, what kind. All three forms of intolerance have one thing in common: Leading a gluten free lifestyle has been proven to improve symptoms.

Gluten is contained not just in cake, bread, and pasta, but also in some foods that would appear to be gluten free. We have prepared an overview that will help you find gluten free foods reliably.


Are you a physician or nutritional specialist? You will find more detailed information on gluten at Dr. Schär Institute, the knowledge platform for experts on the topic of gluten intolerance and the gluten free diet.