Gluten is a protein found in many grains. It’s especially abundant in wheat. If you’ve ever kneaded bread, you’ve undoubtedly noticed that the dough becomes stretchier over the course of the kneading. This texture change arises from the strands of gluten lengthening during kneading. The fact that bread is chewy rather than crumbly has everything to do with the gluten it contains.
Beyond baked goods, many vegan meats also contain gluten, relying on seitan as a main ingredient. Seitan is pure gluten (plus some water, salt, and spices), and it’s gluten that gives seitan-based meats their meaty chewiness.
Gluten and Celiac Disease
Unfortunately gluten plays havoc with some peoples’ digestive systems. This is especially true of people diagnosed with celiac disease, who should treat gluten as if it’s poison and avoid even the tiniest amounts. Among celiacs, gluten produces an allergic response that inflames the intestines and bowels. With repeated exposure to gluten, the lining of these organs breaks down, causing all manner of serious and potentially life-threatening consequences.
Like Crohn’s disease and rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder meaning that the body is attacked by its own immune system. But if you’re going to suffer the misfortune of contracting an autoimmune disorder, celiac disease is clearly the best one to have. That’s because celiacs can avoid any problems simply by banishing all traces of gluten from their diet. And while that restriction is certainly a drag, it’s far from the worst tribulation a person can suffer.