Do you have food allergies? If you don’t, chances are you have a friend or classmate who does. Food allergies are very common today.

Whether you’re in the school cafeteria, a restaurant or the grocery store, you’ve probably seen a wide variety of foods that are made especially for people with certain types of food allergies. Have you ever noticed a food package with the words “gluten free” on it? If so, you may have wondered what gluten is.

Gluten is a special type of protein that is found in the most common types of grains, such as wheat, rye and barley. This means that gluten can be found in many different types of foods, including breads, pizza crusts and breakfast cereals.

Most people eat gluten all the time with no problems. Some people, though, can’t eat gluten because it causes a bad reaction in their bodies. This condition is called celiac disease, and up to 1% of the population has it.

If people with celiac disease eat gluten, the gluten causes their bodies’ immune systems to react. Instead of protecting the body from disease, though, the immune system attacks the part of the digestive system that helps to process vitamins and nutrients from food. This can make it hard for people with celiac disease to stay healthy.

If you have celiac disease, the way to treat it is simple: don’t eat gluten! It’s really not as easy as it sounds, though, since gluten is a part of so many foods. With careful planning and help from a doctor, it’s possible to stay away from gluten, so that your digestive system can heal.

Even after the digestive system heals, gluten will always cause problems for people with celiac disease. If they start eating gluten again, the same symptoms — stomach pains and diarrhea — will return. Staying away from gluten — forever — is the only way to stay healthy.

It can be a challenge, especially for children, to remember all the foods that contain gluten. Some, like bread, are easy to remember. Many foods, though, can be tricky. Battered foods, like fried chicken and some French fries, contain gluten. Pasta made from wheat can also contain gluten.

To stay away from gluten, you have to be on the lookout for it all the time. If you’re not sure whether a food has gluten or not, check the food’s packaging for ingredients or ask a restaurant to provide information about the dishes they serve. With practice, you’ll be able to steer clear of gluten more easily.

Plus, many stores and restaurants now offer gluten-free versions of many of these foods. If you like to cook, you can also make a gluten-free version of just about any type of food.

One other thing you’ll have to keep an eye out for: gluten contamination. People with celiac disease often need their own kitchen equipment and condiments. If someone toasts a piece of wheat bread and the crumbs get in the toaster or in the butter dish, these tiny bits of gluten can contaminate otherwise gluten-free foods and cause problems for people with celiac disease.

22 Join the Discussion

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    • What a SUPER guess, Rahul! We can’t wait to discover tomorrow’s Wonder, either! Thanks for joining us today! :)

    • We LOVE Wondering and learning new things with you, Emily! Food allergies can impact our health, but once they are under control, they are very manageable. We LOVE your STELLAR guessing, too! We can barely contain our excitement for tomorrow’s Wonder! :)

  1. Dear Wonderopolis,

    I loved today’s wonder! I think tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day® is about an ocean animal.

    Sorry that I didn’t leave a comment for a while. I was too busy in the past week and day.

    Remember back on Wonder of the Day® #668 – Where is Hollywood? I thought the Wonder of the Day® #669 was about turning and I was wrong. Wonder of the Day #669® was not about turning. Wonder of the Day #669 was What is a Waterwheel?


    • You are a Wonder Champion, TJ! Thank you for commenting today and guessing tomorrow’s Wonder! Even though you didn’t hit the nail on the head for Wonder #669, you did a WONDERful job using the clues to form your guess! We can’t wait to Wonder with you again– so glad you could join us in the fun! :)

  2. Lots of people can be allergic to anything like I’m allergic to cats, dust, and I’m allergic to a sunscreen because when I put it on my face, it burns like my face is on the sun. Even my dad or baby brother is even allergic to cats or dust. :-(

    • Great connection to today’s Wonder, Carlos. There are lots of allergies out there and they affect different people in different ways. We hope you have found certain products that help you live without having to worry about your allergies, just like those with gluten allergies have done. Thank you for sharing with us, we LOVE to Wonder with you! :)

    • HOORAY, we are SUPER happy to hear that you have enjoyed today’s Wonder about gluten, Sophie. We are so very excited to learn about tomorrow’s journey of a Wonder, too! :)

    • We’re SUPER happy that you and your classmates enjoyed learning about gluten, Kendra! Those recipes made our stomachs growl too! Thank you for joining us as we Wonder about new and exciting things! :)

  3. I have celiac disease, and it is one of the most difficult life changes I’ve had to make in the last ten years. Gluten is literally in everything! It was the hardest adapting I’ve ever had to do by far!

    • Hi Patrick, thank you for sharing your AMAZING story! We think you are quite brave for making those difficult changes to your diet, but are happy to learn that there are more and more options for our Wonder Friends with gluten allergies. We hope you find some new favorite recipes that are gluten-free! Thank you for commenting and WONDERing with us– you ROCK! :)

    • Hi there, Joe! Thanks for commenting on Wonderopolis! We Wonder if you took a look at the Wonder, which will help you learn more about this particular type of protein (gluten). We hope you enjoy learning about food allergies and how to prepare recipes using substitutes! Thanks for joining us today– we hope to see you soon! :)

    • Hi there, H.i sc0re! We are so happy that you’re WONDERing about gluten with us! Not only did you make a great connection to today’s Wonder, you pointed out two different words– they sound similar but have very different meanings– NICE JOB!

      Gluten is a form of protein– you may have heard of “gluten allergies.” People who are allergic to gluten are often unable to eat grains, as their bodies do not have an easy time digesting it.

      Gluttony, which may have been what you were thinking of, is often used to describe a lack of self-control or taking part in excessive behavior. If you’ve ever overindulged at dinner by eating too much cake in one sitting, you might have described yourself as “gluttonous”– but we hope you haven’t encountered that!

      We hope this helps you distinguish those two words– thanks for helping us out and bringing up this WONDERful point! :)

    • It sounds like you’ve got a gluten intolerance, Wonder Friend Alex! We know lots of Wonder Friends who are gluten-free, and they are always looking for great new recipes. We Wonder if you have any favorite gluten-free recipes to share? :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • What is gluten?
  • What is celiac disease?
  • What’s your favorite gluten-free recipe?

Wonder Gallery

Try It Out

Ready to try some new recipes? Grab a friend or family member and head to the kitchen. Pick out one or more of the gluten-free recipes below and get cooking!

Gluten-free doesn’t mean taste-free. Give these recipes a try and you’ll see that gluten-free can be tasty and good for you!

Have a gluten-free recipe you’d like to share with your Wonder Friends? Post it on Facebook for everyone to see. We can’t wait to try your own homemade gluten-free specialty!

Still Wondering

Science NetLinks’ Nutrition 1: Food and the Digestive System lesson explores the digestive system and looks at where nutrients come from and their importance for particular tasks in the body.

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