Gluten and Wheat Intolerance
Whole grains and breads can be a valuable part of the diet, providing
protein, complex carbohydrate, minerals, B-vitamins and fibre. Many
people, however, are discovering that low-quality breads and grain
products are actually preventing them from enjoying full health.
Are you aware of how wheat products affect you? Even if you don't have a true allergy, wheat or other gluten-containing grains may be putting the brakes on your vitality.
If you've never tried it, I recommend giving up wheat and gluten for at least two weeks to see if it makes a
difference. By experimenting with our diet in a methodical way, we can
learn which foods give us optimum health and wellbeing. You may feel
anxious that you're going to miss out on all the most fun foods by
altering your diet; however, the results can be well worth it - energy,
clarity and stable moods!
Even though I don't suffer
any major problems with wheat or gluten, I know that some types of
bread make me feel tired, slightly bloated, foggy and irritable. These
are fairly mild issues. I know people who have relieved themselves of
chronic health problems such as lower back pain, migraine headaches,
depression and bowel irritation - simply by avoiding wheat products.
products show up in so many processed and packaged foods that allergies
and intolerance are not easily noticed. The food industry loves to use
wheat because it is a relatively cheap, common ingredient that can be
used to create huge variety of textures and shapes.
Because we recognise that wheat intolerance is so common, all recipes we teach in our classes
and publish on this website are wheat- and gluten-free. It
may seem daunting to consider going without wheat products - however
there are so many wonderful foods to discover, play with and savour
when you create your own food, from whole ingredients. You won't look
Read on for more details about:
- Gluten; Coeliac Disease; Wheat Intolerance
- Why these problems are becoming more prevalent.
- How you can learn whether your symptoms are related to gluten or wheat.
- How to avoid these products on your food
- Where you can learn more
This is a type of protein found predominantly in wheat, but also occurs
in other grains such as barley, rye and oats. It is the gluten in wheat
that becomes sticky and malleable when mixed with water - allowing us
to make breads, pastries, pies and many other fantastic creations!
A condition in which the body has an immune reaction to gluten. This causes inflammation of the intestine and incomplete digestion. While uncomfortable in itself, this digestive difficulty may lead to a wide range of other symptoms, many caused indirectly by nutritional deficiencies. These can include:
- Mouth ulcers
- Osteoporosis and/or arthritis
- Susceptibility to infections
- Depression, anxiety and other psychiatric disturbances
- Susceptibility to infections
- Retarded growth in children
- Skin problems
- Liver disease
disease affects about 1 percent of the population. It was once
considered a childhood disease, but is now increasingly common in
adults. The immune system of coeliac sufferers produces specific
antibodies in reaction to gluten (this immune reaction defines the
disease as an allergy). It is diagnosable with a blood test.
you have chronic health issues and recognise severe and immediate
reactions to eating wheat or other gluten products, you may well have
genuine, certifiable Coeliac Disease. You need to see your doctor and
Gluten and Wheat Intolerance
are many people who do not have a technical "allergy" to gluten or
wheat, but suffer various difficulties with digestion. This often
called "intolerance". The severity and types of symptom can range from
mild digestive discomfort to the more chronic problems associated with
Why are these problems becoming more prevalent?
has only been part of the human diet for the past 10,000 years - a
brief moment in terms of our evolution. Even for this period wheat was
a staple for only a portion of the world's population. While certain
societies have been sustained by wheat for centuries, others have only
been exposed to it very recently. Some individuals lack the specific
enzymes needed to digest the proteins in wheat and others actually
develop allergies to them.
There have also been
massive changes to food production over the past 40 or 50 years. The
methods used to grow and process grains have altered considerably in
this time. Conventional wheat growers are amongst the highest users of
chemical pesticide and herbicide sprays. And the bread itself has
changed. The mass-produced bread available these days is vastly
different in taste and texture to what my parents grew up on. Modern
bread not only has less nutritional value, it usually contains an array
of additives that are there for texture and long-keeping - but not for
It also appears that the more modern
hybridised strains of wheat create the most digestive problems. Perhaps
you have heard of wheat varieties such as ‘spelt', ‘dinkel' or ‘kamut'.
These are ancient types of wheat that are worth trying as alternatives
if you can't do without your wheat sandwiches or toast!!
A Wheat-Free Experiment
OK, here's where the real discovery begins! An experiment with your own body: Follow a wheat-free diet for three weeks. Yes! You can do it, and it's worth it!
have known only a few people who follow this diligently and don't
notice at least minor health improvements. If this seems challenging,
please read the advice below.
Pay attention to your
health symptoms, energy levels, mental clarity and emotional states
during this time. A good way to do this is to write these down along
with a diary of the foods you eat. You may notice connections for other
foods as well as wheat.
If you notice improvements
to your symptoms over these three weeks, congratulations! Now it's time
to retry wheat again, in a systematic way. Reintroduce some wheat
products each day, for three days to a week. Again, keep a careful note
of your symptoms.
If you have an immediate, severe reaction, stop eating wheat and visit your doctor to get checked for Coeliac Disease.
you have notice a gradual return of some symptoms then you know you are
better off eating wheat. Well done! You've learned something valuable
about your health. Now you can choose whether it's worth persevering
with a wheat-free diet.
Learning How to Avoid Wheat and Gluten
Everyone has a different of level of knowledge about food. For some, avoiding wheat may seem a simple task. For others it may seem close to impossible!
See this as a culinary adventure; rather than a deprivation you are going to give yourself a new world of taste sensations!
simplest way is to prepare most of your food yourself. You get to have
fun in the kitchen and you also know exactly what's in your food. A
balanced whole food diet with plenty of fresh vegetables and fruit will
support your health in so many ways. Include good quality protein and
fats with each meal and drink plenty of water throughout the day.
Here are more tips:
- Learn more about whole food cooking - attend a class with us!
- Use some of the recipes on this website
- Visit health food stores and ask LOTS of questions. Get a guided tour of all the wonderful things you are able to enjoy.
- Try some new breads. Our favourite is Buckwheat and Corn Bread from the "Breadman" company in Christchurch.
- Cook with different whole grains, such as buckwheat or millet.
- If buying packaged food, study food labels carefully. Learn some of the alternative names for wheat derivatives (OK this is a job for me too - to add this information to this article!)
- Plan your food day, and if necessary your week. Because wheat is so common in all pre-made food, whether restaurants or takeaways, you will need to be more self-reliant. Avoid getting in a situation where you have no other options.
Look for the following books and visit these websites:
Complete Guide to Nutritional Health - Pierre Cousin and Kirsten Hartvig - available from us, the most inspiring guide to nutrition I have seen!
Gluten Free Cooking by Lyndel Costain and Joanna Farrow (available at the Organic Green Grocer in Nelson)
Eat, Drink and Be Healthy by Paul Chek - an excellent overall guide to good health
Read more about the Dangers of Grains at Dr Mercola's site