Whether you have a gluten sensitivity, have Celiac Disease, or are avoiding wheat for gut health and anxiety, going gluten-free is vital. Gluten and gut flora don’t play well together. Unfortunately for those looking to skimp out on the gluten, many of your favorite foods are laden with these carbs. Worse yet, it’s destroying beneficial bacteria and intestinal flora in your gut biome.
To avoid potential stomach pain or gastrointestinal distress, it is best to be diligent in determining what you buy.
Read the ingredients labels to make sure that you are buying the best foods for gut health. So, what exactly is gluten? Why is gluten damaging our gut bacteria and what are some foods that have these sugars in it? Let’s take a look!
- 1 The Gluten and Gut Flora Relationship
- 2 Signs Gluten and Gut Flora Aren’t Getting Along
- 3 Gluten and Microbiome Testing
- 4 Medications/Supplements
- 5 Canned Soup
- 6 Salad Dressing
- 7 Oats
- 8 Faux Meats and Seitan
- 9 Soy Sauce
- 10 Packaged Spices and Gravies
- 11 Alcohol
- 12 Licorice
- 13 Assorted Non-Edibles
- 14 The Never-Ending Battle Between Gluten and Gut Flora
- 15 Resources:
The Gluten and Gut Flora Relationship
In short, gluten is the protein that is found in wheat. Unfortunately, a sizeable percentage of humans have trouble digesting this protein. That’s because it seems to be in almost everything.
So, which crops are rich in gluten?
According to Celiac.Org:
“Gluten is a general name for the proteins found in wheat (wheatberries, durum, emmer, semolina, spelt, farina, farro, graham, KAMUT® khorasan wheat and einkorn), rye, barley and triticale – a cross between wheat and rye. ” –Celiac.Org
None of these grains sound like anything that is part of your regular diet? Then, why are so many people experiencing gastrointestinal distress associated with gluten intolerance?
Gluten and Mass-Production of Food
Gluten has a gelatinous texture. This characteristic makes gluten a clutch additive for any food products that need a binding agent or filler. Seeing as what is so cheap to produce, this filler is a no-brainer for many major corporations.
Traditionally, gluten has been okay for people to consume. With the rise of mass-produced food, the quality of gluten protein diminished.
To keep up with demand while maximizing profits, today’s gluten looks nothing like the gluten of yesteryear.
Present day gluten is made from GMO corn. Products with gluten are highly refined and stripped of many nutrients. In turn, you are left with empty calories that are detrimental to your intestinal flora.
Gluten and Celiac Disease
The gluten and gut flora connection first came to light with the growing concerns over Celiac Disease. Approximately 1 in 133 people (1% of the population) have this condition .
Those with Celiac Disease have an immune response in the small intestines when they come into contact with the protein. That’s because the body doesn’t know how to break these sugars down.
Instead, your body remembers that gluten and gut flora don’t mix. Therefore, your body sends out antibodies to destroy the gluten. In turn, you end up killing beneficial gut bacteria.
The Rise of Gluten Sensitivty
As wheat farming practices have become muddied, we have witnessed a rise in gluten sensitivities. In fact, cases of food sensitivities have increased by 500% since 1990 . Of these cases, gluten and lactose are the top two food allergens disrupting our gut biome.
Currently, 20% to 45% of people suffer from gluten sensitivity . Unfortunately, it’s hard to diagnose. While you can be tested for a gluten allergy or Celiac Disease, there is no definitive test for gluten sensitivity. You must eliminate gluten foods from your diet and see if your gastrointestinal problems subside. If so, then you can safely assume you have a gluten intolerance.
Signs Gluten and Gut Flora Aren’t Getting Along
Seeing as gluten may spark an immune response, the long-term effects of gluten can be catastrophic for your gut bacteria. That’s because immune cells create inflammation in the gut biome. Each time you consume gluten, it may trigger this immune response.
Therefore, those who have trouble digesting gluten may experience the following symptoms:
- Feeling Constipated
- Gas in Stomach
- Acid Reflux
- Frequent Bathroom Trips
If you experience these symptoms chronically, please consult a physician. Inquire about getting tested for Celiac Disease and gluten allergies.
Gluten and Microbiome Testing
Intermittently, you should find out which stomach bacteria you have in your microbiome with a gut test. When you consume gluten over long periods of time (like say…your whole life), it may spark chronic inflammation in people with food sensitivities.
Chronic inflammation damages beneficial bacteria, leaving your intestinal flora prone to harmful growth. These are the buggers that cause the bloating, diarrhea, and other GI problems we experience from gluten sensitivity. To get rid of them, you need to identify these opportunists with microbiome testing.
Using the results from our At-Home Gut Health Test Kit, our specialists can determine which stomach bacteria is causing you gastrointestinal distress. From there, we can formulate personalized probiotics to replenish the beneficial bacteria in your gut biome.
While you wait for your results and first month’s probiotics supplements, you can start your journey to gut health. Begin at home with a healthy gut diet plan. The first step is eliminating gluten-heavy foods from your diet. This omission includes these 10 foods you wouldn’t expect!
Medications and supplements often use things such as lactose as a binding agent. But fairly rarely, gluten might be used instead, allowing it to be able to stick together.
Make sure that you look at the ingredient lists on your vitamins or supplements. If there isn’t a certified gluten-free label, look for another brand. Also, talk about this lifestyle change with your doctor.
Your physician needs to be aware of your sensitivities, so they don’t prescribe a medication that may disrupt your gut bacteria. They can also help you find an alternative if you’re having an adverse reaction to any current medications.
Like it is in salad dressing, gluten is also used as a thickening agent in canned soups. In fact, you are not likely to find too many canned products on the market that do not use gluten in their process.
The scary part? Gluten isn’t strictly an additive to thick soups. It can also be used in the broth. Therefore, even canned soups with a liquid consistency may disrupt your intestinal flora.
The best thing to do to keep gluten and gut flora apart is to make all of your soups from scratch. Yeah, it sounds like a pain. However, make a large batch and can or freeze your soup for future use.
Salad dressings are something that we often use too much in the first place. Let’s not kid ourselves, we love to add far more to our salad that the “two tablespoons” serving size, right?
Well, you might want to take a closer look at that dressing. You may think you are making a healthy decision, but you’re actually hurting your intestinal flora. That’s because your salad dressing may be filled with gluten!
Wheat is often used as a thickener. This gives salad dressing their goopy and creamy texture that we all sinfully love. It’s a paradox that draws in and bites us.
Therefore you may find gluten in salad dressings such as:
- Bleu Cheese
- Thousand Island
- Honey Dijon
- Fruit-Flavored Vinagerttes
Instead of smothering your salads with dressings, maybe make some at home, with extra virgin olive oil and red wine or apple cider vinegar? All of these options are staples in a healthy gut diet plan. Otherwise, be mindful of the ingredients list when you go to the store.
Oats are something that you would assume to be gluten-free. After all, many packages tout that they are! These packages aren’t lying. Genetically, oats are gluten-free. Unfortunately, many of these oats are victims of cross-contamination.
Cross-Contamination of Gluten and Gut Flora
While oats do not contain any gluten of their own, they are almost always made on machines that also process things such as wheat, barley, and rye. A 2010 study found that gluten-free oats both labeled gluten-free and not gluten-free show traces of gluten .
Labeled Gluten-Free Flours (mean of 6 extractions)
Data from Gluten Free Watchdog
Buckwheat flour: < 5 ppm gluten
Millet flour: 15.5 ppm gluten
Rice flour (brown): < 5 ppm gluten
Sorghum flour: < 5 ppm gluten (1 extraction tested at 7 ppm gluten)
Soy flour: < 5 ppm gluten (1 extraction tested at 6 ppm gluten)
– Gluten-Free Watchdog
Gluten-Free Flours NOT Labeled Gluten-Free (mean of 2 extractions)
Data from grain contamination study
Buckwheat flour: 65 ppm gluten
Millet flour brand A: 305 ppm gluten
Millet flour brand B: 327 ppm gluten
Rice flour (white) brand A: 8.5 ppm gluten
Rice flour (white) brand B: < 5 ppm gluten
Sorghum flour: 234 ppm gluten
Soy flour brand A: 2,925 ppm gluten
Soy flour brand B: 92 ppm gluten
While gluten cross-contamination is okay for most people, for those with Celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, this can result in gastrointestinal distress and other GI disorders.
To avoid cross-contamination that causes an adverse reaction between gluten and gut flora, read the labels of your gluten-free oats. Make sure they are not processed in the same place as wheat and other gut bacteria disruptors.
Faux Meats and Seitan
Many fake vegetarian and vegan meats can be a godsend if you are consuming a plant-based diet. Unfortunately, many people might not realize is that many of these products are made using Seitan, or wheat gluten.
Also known as wheat germ, seitan is used as a binding agent. It lends itself to the taste and texture of the product. Not only does it keep the plant protein pieces together but gives the impression of “ripping meat off the bone” when you are chewing the product.
So, if you are planning on following a plant-based diet, perhaps stick with beans, legumes, tofu, and other vegan meat alternatives. If you are vegetarian, try dairy and eggs as well.
You may not be aware of this, but soy sauce is actually created using wheat. This fermented soy condiment is also very high in salt. The mixture of salt, allergen soy, gluten and gut flora is a breeding ground for inflammation.
The reason soy sauce contains gluten is that it thickens the sauce.
You may also find gluten in:
- BBQ Sauce
- Buffalo Sauce
- Worcestershire Sauce
Just like “Reduced Sodium” Soy Sauce has become a thing, so has “Gluten-Free” Soy Sauce. However, you remember that whole cross-contamination thing?
Liquid Aminos– A Healthy Gut Diet Alternative to Soy Sauce
If you are a soy sauce fan, we suggest you opt for a healthier option such as Bragg Liquid Aminos.
Not only does this condiment taste like the soy sauce we know and love but it’s non-GMO, zero calories, and gluten-free.
Most importantly, Bragg Liquid Aminos contains 16 amino acids. That makes this condiment a staple for those who follow a vegan diet.
Packaged Spices and Gravies
We all want to go to the store and just grab those small packets of gravy mix or taco seasoning, It just makes cooking that much easier!
Sadly, these conveniences also complicate the gluten and gut flora connection. Wheat is often used as an anti-caking agent or something that prevents the blend from turning into a large clump of seasoning.
The best thing to do in this case is to make the gravy or seasoning mix from home. This is not hard to do and never takes more than 10 or 20 minutes for gravies.
As an added bonus, since you are making the spices and gravies from home, you are in control of the salt and sugar content.
On the flip side, you are also in control of any additives and nutritional content that may hurt or rebuild gut flora. The choice is yours!
Well, let’s get to the elephant in the room. Beer is often made using barley, which does contain wheat. While many beers are distilled and lose most of the gluten by the time it hits the bottle, the mere presence of wheat may trigger gastrointestinal distress for those who are sensitive.
Now, the majority of liquors are technically gluten-free. Anything that is distilled won’t let harmful gluten peptides into the final product. Therefore, brandy, rum, and tequila are all deemed gluten-free.
However, many of these liquors are made with sweeteners like raspberry vodka or orange brandy. These sweeteners may contain gluten. Therefore, be aware of the additives before consuming. Otherwise, stick to grape-based drinks like wine or rice beverages like sake.
Licorice is something that many people in the US do not eat due to its more gamey taste. However, in many other locations, it can be a delicacy that many people love to consume often.
The licorice you buy in a grocery store isn’t the same licorice root that is one of the best supplements for Leaky Gut Syndrome. Sadly to say, packaged licorice has a fair amount of gluten in them. Just one of these strands can cause severe gastrointestinal issues for people who are sensitive to it.
So instead, try to find other forms of candy that you might want to consume as a treat. Many brands of candies are opting to go gluten-free including Sweet Tarts, Laughy Taffy, and Hershey’s.
Assorted non-edibles are the ones you really wouldn’t expect. So many things are either made with wheat or use gluten as a binding agent that makes it difficult to live a gluten-free lifestyle.
- Sticky Part of Envelopes/Stamps
- Sunscreen/Lip Balm
- Finger Paints
These non-edibles are generally not that much of an issue so long as you wash your hands soon after using them and don’t stick your fingers in your mouth. That said, it might be better to stay safe than sorry. Avoiding these items might be best.
The Never-Ending Battle Between Gluten and Gut Flora
Eating food should never feel like a game of Russian Roulette with your digestive system. Make sure that you are doing enough research. Many foods have gluten that you may not have otherwise guessed does. So, make sure that you are diligent in checking the ingredients list before you indulge.
While you implement these lifestyle changes, consult a physician and try microbiome testing. Getting to the source of your gastrointestinal distress is key to lessening the harmful effects of gluten as you start your journey to rebuild gut flora.
 “Celiac Disease: Fast Facts.” Beyond Celiac, www.beyondceliac.org/celiac-disease/facts-and-figures/.
 What is Gluten? (n.d.). Retrieved April 14, 2019, from https://celiac.org/gluten-free-living/what-is-gluten/ Hadley C. (2006).
 Food allergies on the rise? Determining the prevalence of food allergies, and how quickly it is increasing, is the first step in tackling the problem. EMBO reports, 7(11), 1080–1083. doi:10.1038/sj.embor.7400846
 Biesiekierski, J. R., & Iven, J. (2015). Non-coeliac gluten sensitivity: piecing the puzzle together. United European gastroenterology journal, 3(2), 160–165. doi:10.1177/2050640615578388
 “Naturally Gluten-Free Grains and Gluten Contamination.” Gluten Free Watchdog, 22 June 2015, www.glutenfreewatchdog.org/news/naturally-gluten-free-grains-and-gluten-contamination/.