Did you know that gluten is not really a protein itself, but a protein composite? What this means is that gluten is a substance composed of several different proteins. The two proteins wreaking the most havoc on our bodies are gliadin and glutenin (especially gliadin). They constitute about 80% of gluten, and it is the cross-linking of these two proteins that provides many of gluten’s desired properties.
However, gluten also contains albumins and globulins, which are the primary storage proteins in rice and corn.
Specifically, gliadin contains a large peptide chain that is not easily digested by anyone (even people without any kind of gluten intolerance). It is from a stretchy family of proteins known as prolamins. Gliadin is the main protein implicated in gluten intolerance, but some evidence suggests glutenin may also deserve some blame. Glutenin is a glutelin protein, but it is also very prolamin-like.
If all of this makes your head spin, just try to remember this:
The reason it is important to understand that gluten is not just a single protein is that it helps you understand how it only takes the tiniest fraction of a gluten-containing grain to trigger problems.
Think of it this way: Gluten is just a fraction of wheat, and gliadin is just a fraction of gluten. Yet just a small amount of gliadin can do significant damage to the intestines of a person with a gluten intolerance.
In addition, some people may have reactions to one of the other proteins in gluten. In celiac disease, the main culprit is gliadin, but it is also possible for non-celiac sufferers to experience a negative reaction to one of the other protein families in gluten.
If you’re interested in developing a comprehensive understanding of gluten and how it works, I recommend my free lesson, What Is Gluten? It provides a thorough lesson on gluten, followed by a quiz so you can test your understanding.
I imagine some of you might just skip to the quiz, and that’s okay. The quiz provides explanations for each question and answer, so for some people it might be easier to work backwards by taking the quiz then reviewing the lesson.
This lesson (like all the lessons in the Gluten Intolerance School), is completely free for everyone: