All gluten is not equal, especially if you have celiac disease, an intestinal disorder that affects 1 in 133 Americans, according to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse. Gluten refers to the proteins left after the removal of starch from wheat flour. Despite the name, corn gluten does not contain the same proteins found in wheat flour and does not cause the same reaction. Unless you have problems tolerating corn, you can eat hydrolyzed corn gluten if you have celiac disease.
If you have celiac disease, eating foods containing gluten stimulates production of antibodies that attack the villi, which are fingerlike extensions on the small intestine that absorb nutrients. Without the villi, you can't absorb food properly, which leads to symptoms of gas, bloating, diarrhea, abdominal pain, vomiting and weight loss. Only the proteins found in wheat and similar grains will cause these symptoms.
Grains Affecting Celiac Disease
Several other grains, including rye and barley, have proteins similar to those found in wheat; eating foods containing rye and barley will also cause a reaction in people with celiac disease. Oats may cause a reaction not because it has the same proteins but because of cross-contamination during the growing season or in manufacturing plants. Corn does not contain the same type of proteins and will not affect celiac sufferers.
Corn Gluten Uses
Hydrolyzed corn gluten contains byproducts from wet-milling corn. This product can be found in processed foods and can also be used as a natural herbicide against seeds; this product will not work against existing plants. Corn gluten is also used in animal feed for fish, dogs, poultry and cattle, and it poses no risk to humans, according to the University of Minnesota Extension Service.
If you have celiac disease and experience symptoms after eating hydrolyzed corn gluten, you may have a corn intolerance. The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network and the United States Food and Drug Administration do not consider corn to be an allergenic substance, according to RD411.com, a website maintained by registered dietitians. Some allergists, on the other hand, feel that you could develop an allergy to the proteins in corn.
- Celiac.com; What Is Gluten? What Is Gliadin?; Scott Adams; July 2006
- National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse; Celiac Disease; September 2008
- RD411.com; Corn Allergy; September 2009
- University of Minnesota Extension Service; Corn Gluten Meal: A Natural Pre-Emergence Herbicide; Jean Galligan and Deborah Brown; January 2002