Is Corn Gluten Gluten-Free?

Is Corn Gluten Gluten-Free?

This may seem obvious to some, but lately I’ve had a few comments on social media posts that have prompted me to explain this.
Let me answer a few questions that I’ve been asked.
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Remind Me, What is Gluten?

The Gluten that makes people with Celiac Disease and Gluten Intolerance sick is the common name for the protein in wheat, rye and barley. It’s actually made up of two proteins, Glutenin and different types of Prolamins. It’s the specific Prolamins in wheat, rye and barley that cause the problems. They cause the immune system of someone with Celiac Disease to attack the small intestine. The Prolamin in wheat is called Gliadin, in rye it’s called Secalin and in barley it’s called Hordein. (1) 
If you have Celiac Disease, gluten damages your intestines. Celiac disease UCLA Division of Digestive Diseases, Celiac Disease Division Follow Me on Pinterest

If you have Celiac Disease, gluten damages your intestines.
Celiac disease UCLA Division of Digestive Diseases, Celiac Disease Division

So, What is Corn Gluten?

Corn Gluten is an unfortunately confusing nickname given to the proteins in corn. It’s made up of four proteins, Albumins, Globulins, Glutelins and Prolamins. The Prolamin in corn is called Zein. The Prolamin in corn does not affect those with Celiac Disease in the same way as those of wheat, rye and barley. (2)

Oh, okay, so I can eat corn then. Whew!

Well, actually, yes, probably. Corn is gluten free, and if your only problem is with gluten you’re A-OK. Unfortunately some people with Celiac Disease and Gluten Intolerance also react to other grains, even those that are gluten free. For some, eating corn (and rice and other gluten free grains) can cause GI distress and other symptoms usually associated with wheat gluten. If you’re feeling great now that you’ve given up gluten and tolerate corn, great! However, if you find you’re still sick even though you’ve given up gluten, you may need to make further changes to your diet, and you may want to try giving up corn.


(1)  Gluten Free Around the World – What is Gluten?
(2) Corn Biochemistry: Factors Related to Starch Digestibility in Ruminants,  P.C. Hoffman and R.D. Shaver Dept. of Dairy Science University of Wisconsin-Madison
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10 thoughts on “Is Corn Gluten Gluten-Free?

  1. Danielle @ Poor and Gluten Free says:

    Great breakdown, Jodi, I know it can be confusing for people. I always have to chuckle a little when I go to a restaurant or someone’s house and they ask if potatoes are gluten free 😉 Thanks for sharing this on Waste Not Want Not Wednesday, I’ve pinned it.

    • jodi stewart says:

      Thanks Danielle! Some things really are confusing like MSG and Glutinous Rice because they sound like gluten. The catalyst for this post was all the comments on social media I got about corn gluten on a corn relish recipe I posted.
      Thanks so much for pinning!!

  2. Irene says:

    I think corn might be bothering me too, but I can’t find a GF cereal without corn. Any recommendations?

    • jodi stewart says:

      Try Rice Chex and guten free Rice Krispies. I haven’t looked at all the ingredients, but that’s where I would start. Also, can you tolerate oats? Gluten free oats might be a solution for your mornings. 🙂

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