Having a wheat intolerance is a common allergy but it is also unfortunately one of the most difficult to live with and one of the more invasive. There are countless times in our day to day lives when we normally eat wheat and particularly because it is in bread and a range of other starchy carbohydrates that form the basis of many meals.
What also makes it difficult is that wheat is one of our primary sources of fiber and if we’re not consuming any it can lead to high cholesterol potentially and other problems. It’s very important then to avoid this by making up for the lack in your diet, just as it’s important to try and avoid consuming any wheat accidentally and thereby triggering an allergic reaction. Here we will look at what causes a wheat intolerance, whether you have one, how to avoid it in your diet and whether you might be able to find a cure.
Understanding Wheat Intolerance
A wheat intolerance is an immunological response to wheat – and what this means in layman’s terms is that it is an allergy. This technical terminology can tell us a little about what causes an allergy though – and as the name suggests it is a result of your immune system responding in a certain way when it detects wheat in your system. Specifically it reacts in just the same way as it would if it you were to have consumed toxins which is that it tries to flush the problem out of your system and causes swelling, rashes, anaphylaxis, vomiting, tiredness etc depending on the severity of the condition. We currently do not understand why some people develop allergies, and how their immune system comes to erroneously identify certain substances as being toxins, but the important distinction to make is that the substance poses no threat to your body – it’s your own immune system that causes the problem.
Do You Have a Wheat Intolerance
One of the problems with allergies such as wheat intolerance is that they can sometimes affect you without your being immediately aware of the problem. Often the symptoms of a wheat intolerance are not overly dramatic or pronounced as they commonly are with say peanut allergies, and that means that you end up suffering the symptoms without being able to identify the cause. Often this can be hard for the doctors to diagnose too and that then leaves many people suffering from the condition without being aware of what’s bringing them down.
If you’ve been feeling unwell and very tired and the doctor has been uninformative on this occasion then you might be suffering from a wheat allergy. Read the symptoms below and see if they sound familiar:
• Itchy/flaky skin
The symptoms might be similar to IBS or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and you won’t necessarily suffer from all of them. But if you are feeling very unwell and can’t identify why, then an allergy to wheat is a very real possibility. From here you now then need to go and get tested for the allergy which will involve an analysis of your blood, or you can try and conduct your own experiment by leaving certain foods (starting with wheat-based products in this case) out of your diet and seeing if you notice any improvement.
Can it Be Cured?
The good news is that in some cases a wheat intolerance can be cured. The cure for many is called ‘immunotherapy’ and essentially this works in a similar manner to immunization against a disease. Here you will be administered with a very small amount of the allergen – a minute enough dosage that it doesn’t trigger any reaction immediately from the immune system. From here the dosage will be gradually increased until you are receiving full amounts of the allergen that would normally trigger a response. By this point though the body will hopefully have ‘adapted’ to the injections and so will no longer be affected by them. If it’s successful then this can completely cure a wheat allergy, though it will not always work and some people will be unresponsive to the therapy. In this scenario there is no choice other than to learn to live with the condition and to avoid wheat sources in the diet.
Living With a Wheat Allergy
Living with a wheat allergy is not always easy but if you are careful it’s certainly possible to enjoy a full and healthy diet without consuming any wheat. First of all it is highly important that you make sure to always read the ingredients on anything you eat. This will tell you whether it contains wheat or not and it will mean that you can better avoid eating those things that might be bad for your health.
At the same time though the ingredients on packaging will not always be incredibly clear and won’t always say just ‘wheat’. There are several things to look out for when reading ingredients so be sure to avoid any of the following:
• Bread crumbs
• Cereal extract
• Cracker meal
• Enriched flour
• Graham flour
• High protein flour
• High gluten flour
• Sprouted wheat
• Vital gluten
• Wheat germ
• Wheat gluten
• Wheat malt
• Wheat bran
• Wheat starch
• Whole wheat flour
• Whole wheat berries
• Modified starch
• Modified food starch
• Soy sauce
• Vegetable starch
• Gelatinized starch
• Hydrolyzed vegetable protein
If you notice any of these things in the ingredients then they might upset a wheat allergy.
The main difficulty will come with bread, so what you need to do is to use rye bread that is distinctly made without wheat or flour – avoid whole wheat or enriched, any rolls and mostly any bread that comes pre-packaged.
Alternatively when cooking or baking yourself you might want to find an alternative to wheat. Making your own bread etc in this way is a good practice as not only is it cheaper and often healthier, but also because it means you can guarantee what went into it and know with certainty that it won’t aggravate your wheat intolerance.
Substitutes for 1 cup of wheat flour are:
• 1 cup of rye meal
• 1 cup of rye flour
• 1 cup of potato flour
• 1 1/3 cups of rolled oats
• 1 1/3 cups of oat flour
• ½ cup potato flour and ½ cup rye flour (along with other mixtures of the above)
• 5/8 cup of potato starch
• Or 5/8 cup of flour and 1/3 cup of rye flour (or other combinations)