Grains/Proteins and the gluten free diet

Although I have been off gluten 100% for almost 7 years now, it was not a instant fix. I ended up with leaky gut which took many years to heal. During that time period I went on various elimination diets to try and work out if there were other things causing my ongoing problems besides gluten.

I figured out what works for ME and what my body responds well to. Through my personal experience and research, I discovered many interesting things about Fodmaps, grains, lectins, cross-contamination (more on this below), avenin, proteins in plants, and much more!

Disclaimer: This article is based and written on my own research and with my own experience in mind. It is not meant to encourage, advocate or endorse a particular lifestyle or diet. It is merely written to create awareness and based on my own personal experience and research with the intention that others may find it interesting and informative. Please do your own research and always speak to the relevant health professional when it comes to making dietary changes in your life.

I found it very helpful learning about the different types of proteins in grains as even on a gluten free diet, one can still have reactions to certain foods. It is with this in mind that I have written this article.


What are grains?

Grains are from the Poaceae family and are broken up into two categories : Whole-grains and refined grains.

  • Whole-Grains : These are grains that contain the bran, germ and endosperm and not much processing has been done to them as these three basic components making up the grain remain intact.
  • Refined grains are processed and are missing the germ and the bran and have a shortened shelf life. They are also much less nutritious than whole grains as the bran and germ are what hold all the essential vitamins and minerals.

Type of grains are:

  • Barley
  • Rye
  • corn
  • Wheat
  • Rice
  • Aramanth
  • Buckwheat
  • Millet
  • Bulgar
  • Farro
  • Spelt
  • Oats
  • Quinoa
  • Sorghum
  • Teff
  • Couscous
  • Emmer
  • Freekeh

What are Pseudo grains?

Pseuado grains or cereals are not actually grains. They form a special group on their own. They resemble grains but come from a different plant family. Pseuado means “pretend”. So it is clear why these are given the name pseuado grains. Which of the grains fall into this category?

  • Aramanth
  • Quinoa
  • Buckwheat

Which grains are gluten Free?

  • Corn
  • Rice
  • Buckwheat
  • Millet
  • Quinoa
  • Sorghum
  • Teff
  • Aramanth

what is gliadin?

Gluten is composed of two main proteins – glutenin and gliadin.

Gliadin is a protein known as a prolamin found in wheat and some other grains, including wheat, oats, rye and barley. Since gliadin cannot be extracted from gluten, some people think they have a gluten sensitivity but in fact they have a gliadin allergy. (This article explains it in detail.)

What is Avenin?

Avenin is a prolamin protein found in oats. Oats is naturally gluten free, however it is often grown near wheat or in a field where other grains containing gluten were grown by means of crop rotation. Oats can be processed in a factory that handles other gluten containing grains and it is during the manufacturing process that cross contamination can occur. Therefore when purchasing oats, it is best to look for a certified gluten free label. Oats can be labelled gluten free if the if the gluten levels in the final product do not exceed 20ppm.

Some people can have an allergy to oats or a sensitivity.[1]

If you are on a gluten free diet but still have a reaction to oats, you could have an oat sensitivity and it would be beneficial for you to explore this further.

Why some react to non gluten grains

After I had been off gluten for about a year and a half, I started to experience the effects caused by leaky gut.[1]

By then, the damage gluten had caused had been done and with the help of trained health professionals, I embarked on my journey to heal my gut. I followed strict protocols (what to avoid and what to do) These were all very necessary and valuable steps toward my recovery, but even once I had implemented these things, I still had various digestive issues. This lead to trying the Low Fodmap diet for a year and a half.

While my gut was still healing, I discovered various food groups or single food items that were slowing down my healing process.

This is due to something termed as Gluten cross-reactivity.

When you have celicac disease, your body produces antibodies [2] against gluten. These antibodies also recognize proteins in other food and even though they don’t contain gluten, you body can react to them as if it did. There are a lot of blogs that talk about 19 gluten cross-reactive foods and various hot debates about this. Since I am not qualified in the fields of food science nor do I have any medical qualification, what I write about is purely my own opinion and based on my own experience. I do recommend reading this article written by the paleomom who is a medical biophysicist and this article which explains why the 19 gluten cross reactive foods is not necessarily true. Honestly, I see merit in both articles purely because of what I have personally experienced.

In hindsight one can look back and see the effects food has on you. At the time, experiencing various symptoms when eating certain foods that seemed to mimic the reactions I got from gluten,was inexplicable.

I do not know if there is any truth in the matter of gluten cross-reactivity within ALL the supposed 19 foods listed, but all I can vouch for is my personal experience whereby the following foods definitely had a negative effect on me to some degree (some worse than others). Some went away over time and some I still react to.

By react I mean: migraines, brain fog, digestive issues, pain, inflammation

  • corn (for a long time I could not eat corn, but now that my gut is healed, I have no issue with corn at all)
  • whey (I am fine with dairy -cheese, yogurt, cream and cream cheese, but as soon as a product has whey protein or whey isolate in, I react and I do not drink milk at all. Only plant based milk)
  • oats ( I cannot even eat certified gluten free oats)
  • instant coffee ( I immediately get a migraine) I can only have pure fresh coffee
  • yeast (in small amounts and definitely not daily.)
  • soy (I cannot eat legumes, for me they are the worst. I suspect due to Lectins)
  • rice (I react badly to cooked rice but can eat it in small amounts in baked goods whereby rice flour is used)
  • quinoa (a pseudo grain that is non gluten – but I don’t react well to it)
  • white potato (in large amounts)

I do not think one needs to be a medical expert to listen to your own body and respond accordingly. We all have that inherent right as human beings. But I do see the harm in spreading false information or advocating certain dietary lifestyles/changes based on your own experience since we are all different and what effects/works for one might not work for another. That is why I ALWAYS say I am not qualified to do so and secondly, these articles are written purely for informative reasons, and based solely on my own personal experience. Gaining knowledge is key in implementing changes and understanding how your body works and I personally love taking in knowledge of all things health, food and body related But I also think there are times you need to seek advice/help according to the relevant medial/health professional. In doing both, not only have I learned a lot but I have also been able to implement certain things in my life that have helped to heal and restore my health.

Anything further : whether getting medical/health advise, making dietary changes, supplements etc is the responsibility of the person reading this.

Published by Bonnie

Hello. My name is Bonnie. Welcome to my page. I have been an avid baker for about 20 years. Of those years, seven have been gluten-free baking. I discovered I had a chronic intolerance to gluten and began experimenting with converting my all time favorite recipes into gluten-free ones. I also have developed my own recipe repertoire. I am married and have two children. My husband and son are not gluten intolerant but my daughter is. She has also been the motivation for persevering in creating recipes we both can enjoy. My journey has taught me so much and I know many others can benefit from my experience. My hope is that you will find something you can order that you have missed and longed for being gluten intolerant or celiac. Or perhaps you just want a healthier option as I also offer alternatives to some of my orders such as sugar free, grain free and low carb. I share my experience and story in more detail on my Instagram page. (@bonniesGFbakery) Please feel free to follow me there. Located in Somerset West, Western cape, South Africa. I deliver to the Helderberg basin area which includes Somerset West, Gordans Bay and Strand.

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