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Gluten Intolerance, Flour Facts, and a Pumpkin Muffin Recipe

Linda Crampton is a teacher with an honors degree in biology. She enjoys exploring nutrition as well as the culture and history of food.

Gluten-free pumpkin muffins.

Gluten-free pumpkin muffins.

Gluten Intolerance

Gluten is a protein complex in wheat, spelt, kamut, triticale, rye, and barley. Flours containing the complex provide a light and springy texture to breads, which is very popular with consumers. Some people are intolerant to gluten, however. This intolerance can produce some unpleasant and even dangerous effects in the body. Fortunately, many gluten-free flours are available today as well as substances that at least partially replace gluten's properties. I make and eat some baked goods that lack the complex. I've included one of my recipes for gluten-free muffins in this article.

Celiac Disease

One of the most serious results of gluten intolerance is celiac disease, which is an autoimmune disorder. In people with this disease, components of gluten cause the body’s immune system to damage the intestinal villi. The villi are tiny projections on the lining of the small intestine that absorb digested food. People with celiac disease must completely avoid gluten in their diet, thereby allowing the villi to regrow. Continued ingestion of the complex increases the risk of other diseases, some of which are serious.

Gluten is found in most store-bought baked goods, though the number of products without the substance is increasing where I live. Gluten is frequently used as a food or cosmetic additive. Someone who is intolerant to the substance can still follow a healthy and delicious diet. They need to be very careful when choosing their foods and drinks as well as their medicines, toothpastes, and cosmetics, though.

Whole wheat is a nutritious food, but some people are intolerant to wheat or to the gluten in the wheat.

Whole wheat is a nutritious food, but some people are intolerant to wheat or to the gluten in the wheat.

Is a Gluten-Free Diet Necessary?

The gluten-free diet appears to be increasing in popularity. Most nutritionists seem to regard this increase as a fad, but a few suspect that gluten—or at least the relatively large amount of the substance found in some of today's grains or in some people's diet—may be responsible for more health problems than we realize. In the case of celiac disease and some other health problems diagnosed by a doctor, gluten has been medically acknowledged as a problem and must be avoided. In other people, the avoidance of the substance is controversial.

Reasons Why People Might Avoid Gluten

Some people decide to avoid gluten without a diagnosis of intolerance and experience renewed health, which is a great reason for avoiding the substance. The grains that contain gluten are otherwise healthy and nutritious, however, so it's a shame to avoid them unnecessarily. A person may find that they can tolerate one of the gluten-containing grains and not another. Wheat may be troublesome while rye may not be, for example.

Some people choose to eliminate a food or substance from their diet temporarily to see if a health problem improves. If it does, they may then eat the food again as a challenge to see if the health problem returns. If the problem does return, they conclude that they are intolerant to the food and eliminate it from their diet permanently. If someone reaches a stage where they decide to eliminate a healthy food from their diet, it would be a good idea to visit a doctor and a dietitian for advice.

Someone with a medically diagnosed intolerance to gluten must never follow a food challenge. Gluten ingestion will further damage the villi in a person with celiac disease, for example, and will also increase the risk of other diseases, including osteoporosis and intestinal cancer.

Gluten-Free Foods

Meats, fish, vegetables, legumes or pulses, fruits, nuts, seeds, eggs, and milk (if a person isn’t dairy-intolerant in addition to being gluten-intolerant) are good foods for a gluten-free diet. As soon as these foods are processed, packaged, canned, or preserved, though, gluten may be introduced as an additive. The ingredients in packaged and processed products should always be checked carefully. Even non-dairy milks may contain small quantities of gluten.

A person with an intolerance to gluten can still eat grains, as long as the grains don't contain the substance. Luckily, the number of gluten-free grains, flours, and baked products available in stores seems to be increasing in many areas. A few years ago, only specialized stores like health food markets sold gluten-free baked foods such as breads, cakes, cookies, and breakfast cereals; now even my local supermarkets are selling them.

The problem is that most of these foods contain refined grains, such as white rice, as well as a lot of sugar or fat and artificial additives. They also tend to be more expensive than their gluten-containing counterparts. Making baked grain products at home can produce nutritious, less expensive, and often delicious results.

In Latin, the word gluten means “glue”. Gluten acts as a binder in baked goods, preventing the final product from falling apart. It contains two proteins—gliadinin and glutenin.

Guidelines for Baking

If you buy a flour from a manufacturer that also makes products that contain gluten, check that the flour is made in a separate facility to avoid gluten contamination. When you buy gluten-free flours in stores, make sure that they are packaged instead of being located in bins, where the scoop may have been in contact with a grain that contains gluten.

In gluten-free baking, a combination of flours works best, since there in no one flour that is completely suitable as a replacement for wheat or other gluten-containing grains. There are a number of gluten-free flours that you can experiment with, depending on what is available and affordable in your area. Different flour combinations will give a different taste in the final product. Some companies sell flour mixes that are already prepared.

Gluten-Free Flour Examples

Flours from rice (preferably brown rice, since it is a whole grain and contains fiber), sorghum, quinoa (pronounced “keenwa”), buckwheat, teff, amaranth, millet, and tapioca are all gluten-free. Corn flour is gluten-free too. Oat flour is good, but it must be made from oats that are certified to be free of gluten. This is very important, since oats are often contaminated by gluten-containing grains as they grow or in the grain storage facility. People with celiac disease are sometimes sensitive to corn or even gluten-free oats, though.

Almond flour or meal and other nut and seed meals can be added to a flour mix to add nutrition and taste. Bean and pea flours, such as garbanzo, fava bean, and chickpea flours, are becoming popular. Potato flour and arrowroot are sometimes used in gluten-free recipes, too. They help to produce a light texture.

If you have celiac disease, even when you're using a flour made from a grain that doesn't contain gluten, you should make sure that the flour is certified to be free of gluten by an independent laboratory. Grains can be contaminated with other grains in the field, during storage, or during processing.

A Recipe for Gluten-Free Baking Powder

In gluten-free baking, xanthan gum or guar gum is often added to the flour mix to act as a binder. These work well, but some people experience digestive problems when they eat xanthan gum. Guar gum acts as a laxative when eaten in large quantities. Eggs will also bind ingredients together in a muffin recipe. This is my solution in the recipe below.

Gluten-Free Pumpkin Muffins

I don’t have celiac disease, but I do have food intolerances and digestive tract problems. I often find that my body handles gluten-free or low-gluten foods better than foods containing wheat or rye. I do eat muffins containing wheat at times, but too much wheat gives me heartburn and a sore stomach. My body “likes” gluten-free muffins.

Muffins are my favorite cake-like products to bake because they’re quick to make and can be produced in many different variations. Gluten-free foods need to be baked at a lower temperature than foods containing gluten. The recipe below makes about twelve medium sized, moist, and tasty muffins.

Pumpkins are nutritious as well as colorful. They are rich in beta-carotene, which our body converts into vitamin A.

Pumpkins are nutritious as well as colorful. They are rich in beta-carotene, which our body converts into vitamin A.


  • 2 cups of a finely ground flour mix that is certified gluten free (I like to use sorghum flour and millet flour in my mix)
  • 2 teaspoons gluten-free baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup brown rice syrup
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup of unsweetened pumpkin puree
  • 1/4 cup of buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened apple sauce
  • 2 large eggs


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger together in a bowl.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix the pumpkin puree, apple sauce, brown rice syrup, buttermilk (or regular milk or gluten-free non-dairy milk), vegetable oil, eggs, and vanilla extract together.
  4. Mix the dry ingredients and the wet ingredients together until just combined. Be careful not to overmix.
  5. Spoon the batter into paper cups in a muffin pan (or directly into the pan if it has a non-stick surface), filling each cup about three quarters full.
  6. Bake for about twenty-five minutes (but check the muffins at twenty minutes).
  7. When the muffins are ready to remove from the oven, they‘ll spring back into shape when their tops are lightly pressed and a toothpick inserted into the middle of a muffin will come out clean.
  8. Leave the hot muffins in the pan for about five minutes, then remove them and place them on a wire tray to finish cooling.
  9. Store the muffins in a small, airtight container, since gluten-free baked products can lose moisture quite quickly.

The spices can be left out of the recipe if you’d prefer to do this. I nearly always add spices to pumpkin puree and love the combination of flavors. Fortunately, spices in moderation cause no problems for my body. A pumpkin and spice combination is often associated with the fall, but I love it at any time of year, especially in muffins.

References and Resources

The websites mentioned in the references below give useful information about gluten-free grains and celiac disease.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2011 Linda Crampton


Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on April 25, 2012:

Hi, carla. Thank you for the comment! I hope that you enjoy the muffins. The apple sauce provides moisture and a bit of sweetness, so the recipe may need to be adjusted slightly without it. The muffins are easy to make though, so I expect you'll soon find exactly the right recipe to suit you and your daughter!

carla on April 25, 2012:

looks good, gonna try it without the applesauce, as my daughter cannot have fruit.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on February 14, 2012:

Hi, AudreyHowitt. It's very interesting to hear about the immediate benefits that you felt after giving up gluten! I can eat gluten, but I definitely need to limit wheat in my diet. Thanks for the comment!

Audrey Howitt from California on February 14, 2012:

Great hub! I stopped eating gluten products about a month ago and am still adjusting my diet, but I feel so much better--my sinuses are less swollen and I lost 3 pounds right off the bat--Thank you for this informative hub!

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on September 24, 2011:

Hi, Tina. Thank you for the visit and the comment! Gluten intolerance is becoming more common, or at least is being diagnosed more often. It's good that there are other grains that gluten intolerant people can use instead of the ones that contain gluten.

Christina Lornemark from Sweden on September 24, 2011:

Very interesting and informative hub about gluten intolerance! It is a pretty common intolerance these days so the information is needed. Great recipe too!


Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on September 23, 2011:

Thank you very much, Simone! I use rice syrup as a sweetener because it helps to create a moist texture in the muffins, and because the muffins are not overly sweet when they're baked.

Simone Haruko Smith from San Francisco on September 23, 2011:

This is SUCH a useful Hub, AliciaC! I am going to have to give those pumpkin muffins a try- just have to get the rice syrup and special flour first. Thanks so much for sharing the recipe- and the information, too!

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on September 23, 2011:

Thank you so much, Prasetio. I always appreciate your visits and lovely comments!

prasetio30 from malang-indonesia on September 23, 2011:

Very nice information from you. Thank you very much for always give us something new like this one. You have done a great job, Alicia. My vote always for you. Cheers..


Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on September 22, 2011:

Hi, Peggy. Yes, it's amazing how many products contain gluten. Thank you for commenting.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on September 22, 2011:

I had no idea that gluten could even be in baking powder! More and more people these days seem to be having problems with gluten in their diets. This will be a good hub to keep as a resource. Thanks for writing it! The pumpkin muffins sound delicious.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on September 22, 2011:

Hi, Nell. Thanks for the visit and the comment. Yes, a person has to be very careful when they're trying to follow a gluten-free diet - gluten is present in so many foods.

Nell Rose from England on September 22, 2011:

Hi, my brother is slightly like this, but not too bad, but as you said, even if you buy it gluten free, it can be added to canned food, this is a really useful hub, and I will show my brother, thanks!

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on September 22, 2011:

Thanks, b. Malin. I think it's great that so many gluten free products and recipes are available and that people are becoming more aware of gluten intolerance.

b. Malin on September 22, 2011:

I have been reading so much lately about "Gluten Free Products" and it's about time. Very Interesting and Informative Hub, Alicia, with a Great Recipe to Boot!

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on September 22, 2011:

Hi, Movie Master. Thank you for the visit, the comment and the vote!

Movie Master from United Kingdom on September 22, 2011:

Hello Alicia, gluten intolerance is so well explained and your hub nice and easy to read, I agree we should listen to our bodies more!

And thank you for the muffin recipe.

Voting up and thanks for sharing.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on September 22, 2011:

Thank you for the visit and the comment, tirelesstraveler. Some people do feel better when they reduce or eliminate gluten from their diet. Also, some gluten-free flours and flour combinations have a very interesting and pleasant taste, which I think everyone, gluten intolerant or not, would enjoy. Many of the gluten-free grains are nutritious, too.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on September 22, 2011:

Hi, MidwestJerseyGirl. Thank you very much for the kind comment. Welcome to HubPages!

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on September 22, 2011:

Thanks a lot for the comment and the votes, billabongbob. Yes, it's very interesting that some people report that health problems that they have had for a long time disappear when they stop eating gluten, even if they aren't diagnosed with celiac disease. Maybe a high-gluten diet plays a role in more disorders than is generally believed!

Judy Specht from California on September 22, 2011:

Great tip about gluten free products needing lower baking temperatures. I am not gluten intolerant but my O blood type prefers non gluten flours. Thinking about doing some fall baking and I love the pumpkin muffin idea

MidwestJerseyGirl from Western Suburbs of Chicago on September 22, 2011:

I am new to HubPages and so I am looking for examples of professional looking Hubs. Yours is a terrific overview of Gluten intolerance and just the right amount of background info followed by a terrific recipe. Well done!

billabongbob from South Wales, UK on September 22, 2011:

So many people have a gluten intolerance, many without even knowing.

This hub is an excellent source of information. The recipe is great, and adaptable for other cake baking ideas.

Voted up, interesting and useful.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on September 21, 2011:

Thank you very much for the comment, RTalloni. Yes, you're so right - our bodies do talk to us! At least food and drink manufacturers are now creating useful alternatives for people with food intolerances and sensitivities.

RTalloni on September 21, 2011:

Super overview of gluten intolerance! This will be a good resource for many people, and the recipes look fabulous. Our bodies do talk to us don't they? I will have to adapt this to be cow milk free, but that usually works out well with either goat milk or almond milk. Thanks much!

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