Gluten Intolerance – A Common Sensitivity in Human


There has been a drastic shift in diets, especially among Gen Y and Gen Z individuals. One such diet is gluten-free. This kind of diet is being followed not only due to the body’s lack of gluten tolerance but also for the fact that gluten-free diets have become a part of various weight loss programs.

What is Gluten?

Gluten is a cluster of proteins (prolamins and glutelins), generally found in wheat, rye, and barley varieties and hybrids. A large number of food products such as bread, cake, bagels, biscuits, cookies, and others are made of gluten-containing grains (wheat, rye, and barley). Additionally, alcoholic beverages such as beer also contain gluten from barley.

For a product to be labeled as “Gluten-Free” or “No Gluten,” it should not contain gluten more than 20ppm.

Gluten provides the following properties/benefits to food products:

  • Better dough strength due to its elastic and network-forming property
  • Better gas retention in the bread
  • Better water absorption and retention
  • Enhanced flavors

Gluten Intolerance

Gluten intolerance is a disorder that occurs when an individual develops sensitivity to gluten due to triggering of antigenic properties and further producing adverse reactions. Gluten intolerance symptoms may vary from person to person. Gluten intolerance can be classified into three types, namely, Coeliac or Celiac Disease (CD) (complete intolerance to gluten, mainly occurs due to individual’s genetics), Wheat Allergy (intolerance to any wheat protein including gluten), and Non-Coeliac Gluten Sensitivity (gluten sensitivity that does not fall under both coeliac disease and wheat allergy categories, but gets cured by consuming gluten-free diet).

Gluten intolerants cannot consume food products, such as bread, biscuits, cakes, and beer, or any product that is made of wheat, rye, or barley. The gluten sensitivity has increased by four-folds since the 1950s. The rapid rise in the disorder represents a potential for the gluten-free market to stand parallel to that of gluten-based products.

Common Symptoms of Gluten Intolerance

  • Sore Stomach
  • Dizzy Feeling
  • Diarrhea
  • Mouth Ulcers
  • Constipation
  • Feeling Tired
  • Bloated Stomach
  • Vomiting
  • Weight Loss

What is Coeliac Disease?

CD is an autoimmune and hereditary disease, highly prevalent in people with CD running in their families. In clinical terms, getting tested for the Tissue Transglutaminase IgA antibody can provide the conclusion for possessing CD. Multiple tests may assess the possibility of CD, such as IgA Endomysial Antibody (EMA), total serum IgA, Deamidated Gliadin Peptide (DGP IgA and IgG), Video Capsule Endoscopy (VCE), Intestinal Fatty Acid-binding Protein (I-FABP), and radiology. According to a study, CD affects one among 100 people worldwide. When a CD patient consumes gluten-containing food, an immune response is invoked, which damages the small intestine. Intestinal lining in the small intestine gets inflamed, reducing its ability to absorb nutrients effectively. The only way by which a coeliac patient can save themselves is by following a diet completely free of gluten.

In a meta-analysis (S1542356517307838) by Prashant S, the occurrence of CD varies with sex, age, and location. This study concludes 1) CD is more common in females, and 2) children suffer from CD to a more significant extent compared to adults.

What Happens when a CD Patient Consumes Gluten-containing Food?

When a coeliac patient ingests gluten, the finger-like projections in the lining of the small intestine gets inflamed and flattened (refer Exhibit 1). This condition is known as Villous Atrophy (VA). Villi are responsible for nutrient absorption and can also lead to various gastrointestinal and malabsorptive symptoms.

Non-Coeliac Gluten Sensitivity

Non-Coeliac Gluten Sensitivity (NCGS) is a term that covers a range of gastrointestinal and non-gastrointestinal symptoms due to gluten restriction, which recurs with gluten consumption. People who are not diagnosed with CD but still possess sensitivity to gluten fall under this category. Symptoms for NCGS are similar to those of coeliac disease.

Wheat Sensitivity

Wheat sensitivity is an allergy caused by the ingestion of wheat proteins. Allergy symptoms include itching, hives, or anaphylaxis. Wheat sensitivity is an immune response (not auto-immune), where immediately after the wheat components are ingested, IgE levels are elevated. People with wheat sensitivity do not necessarily need to follow a gluten-free diet; instead, any wheat-free diet would help.

Challenges in the Segment

There are various kinds of challenges encountered while producing gluten-free products. These challenges can be classified as technical and nutritional.

Major Technical Challenges

Gluten is responsible for structural integrity in most of the conventional bakery products. Replacing may result in various technological challenges, as represented in Exhibit 2.

Major Nutritional Challenges

  • Gluten-free products present a low-level of the fiber content
  • Micronutrients in gluten-free products are relatively lower than gluten-containing products

Solutions in the Market & Research Space

Treating wheat/rye/barley for hydrolyzing gluten peptides

Wheat can be hydrolyzed enzymatically along with few downstream units such as centrifugation and ultra-centrifugation for the reduction in gluten hydrolysates antigenicity. Conventional enzymes, such as papain, alcalase, etc., are known for their gliadin-reducing activity in the research area.

  1. Flavourzyme is a registered product by Novozymes. It is a peptidase enzyme preparation, responsible for liberating amino acids by hydrolysis of N-terminal peptide bonds.
  2. Hydrolyzed wheat products:
  3. Unique Product:

Using substitutes of wheat/rye/barley

There is no such ingredient that can completely replace/substitute gluten. Ingredients that are being used for substituting gluten include grains/legumes/plant flours such as buckwheat, soybean, sorghum, pseudo-cereals, seeds, nuts, fruit flours, legumes, tubers, roots, and others.

Pale Ale is an alcoholic product-beer brewed out of millet, buckwheat, rice, Citra, and loral hops. Coeliac Australia has recognized this product.

Gluten and Wheat Free Multigrain Bread developed by Dr. Schär is made of multiple grains such as rice flour (10%), millet seeds (1.2%), sunflower seeds (1.8%), and linseed (3%). This product also contains soy protein.

Sourdough technology

Sourdough has been in commercial space for ages. It contains a variety of lactic acid genre and fungal proteases. Research in the field of the human digestive system is gradually becoming prominent.

Research studies by:

  • Jussi Loponen concludes in his research (Pub no: C-2003-1215-04R) that rye sourdough, as well as wheat sourdough, prepares an acidic environment during fermentation, which makes it favorable for cereal aspartic enzymes present to degrade gluten peptides in the bread.
  • Massimiliano Rinaldi indicates (PMID28159249) that sourdough fermentation for making bread from chestnut flour was used to increase the crumb moisture but with a darker color. Another study depicts using sourdough as a natural starter for gluten-free bread.
  • Marco Gobbetti depicts (S0740002013000816) that wheat flour digested via fungal proteases and selected sourdough lactobacilli have been demonstrated as safe for coeliac patients.

It was also observed that sourdough fermentation caused an increase in the dough elasticity and delay in staling.

Other technological solutions for improving gluten-free products

Products such as multigrain bread are very susceptible to degradation due to no/low gluten content. The following is the list of solutions used to maintain food product properties:

  • Additives such as hydrocolloids, proteins, emulsifiers, and enzymes are included in the composition to enhance the structural quality. Hydrocolloids are used as gluten replacers for thickening abilities, high water binding capacities, and gel-forming characteristics. Enzymes such as starch hydrolyzing enzymes are used to decrease amylopectin retrogradation, thereby reducing staling of the end product.
  • Various packaging techniques have been employed for gluten-free bakery products to prolong their shelf life. Research by Laura Gutiérrez indicates that active packaging can considerably increase the shelf life of gluten-free products when microbiological and sensorial parameters are taken into account.
  • Research (S0023643816302869) by Carola Cappa concludes that high-pressure processing (600MPa for 5 mins at 40°C) can be applied to combat staling in corn and rice bread. High-pressure processing acts on water, proteins, and starch to modify the functional properties of proteins and enzymes that are responsible for shortening the shelf life.

Table 1 enlists ingredients that can be added to cater to the nutritional needs in gluten-free products.

Gluten-free Product Trends

In a study 2017, approximately 3.1 million people across the United States follow a gluten-free diet. 72% of the population was without coeliac disease and they are opting to follow a gluten-free diet.

A range of food products and drinks have been observed to be labeled as “Gluten-free” or “No Gluten” or “Free of Gluten” or “Without Gluten.” Such products include bakery and confectionery, snacks, dairy products, beverages, desserts, ice creams, sauces, meat & fish products, and others as depicted in Exhibit 3.

Cumulatively, Brazil, the US, and Spain constitute to be the largest market for gluten-free food products, since 2015. The demand and consumption of gluten-free products have risen due to the inclusion of gluten-free products in weight management programs, diets of coeliac disease patients, as well as gluten-sensitive people.

Weight management experts are also using a gluten-free diet as a part of their weight-loss plan. Over the years, a significant increase in gluten-free bakery products has been observed, as mentioned in Exhibit 4.


  1. Gluten- sensitive diarrhea without evidence of celiac disease
  2. Gluten intolerance symptoms & diagnosis
  3. What is Celiac Disease?
  4. Global Prevalence of Celiac Disease: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.
  5. Noonan syndrome and coeliac disease
  6. Non Celiac Gluten/ Wheat Sensitivity
  7. FDA- Gluten and Food Labelling
  8. Gluten-free: one of 3 trends shaking up the commodities
  9. Celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity and wheat allergy: comparison of 3 different disease triggered by the same food
  10. The Oslo definitions for coeliac disease and related terms
  11. Novel Approaches in Gluten-Free Bread making: Interference between Food Science, Nutrition and Health
  12. Production of wheat gluten hydrolysates with reduces antigenicity employing enzymatic hydrolysis combined with downstream unit operations
  13. Health Benefits and Advance Effects of a Gluten- Free Diet in Non- Celiac Disease Patients
  14. Testing
  15. Effect of high pressure processing on the baking aptitude of corn starch and rice flour
  16. Overview on the General Approaches to Improve Gluten-Free Pasta and Bread
  17. How the sourdough may affect the functional features of the leavened goods
  18. Sourdough- Based Biotechnologies for the production of gluten-free foods
  19. Evaluation of Antimicrobial Active Packaging to increase shelf life of gluten-free sliced bread

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