Do you notice a bloated belly from time to time? Or perhaps random aches and pains? Maybe you have problem skin? You may have a wheat or gluten sensitivity.
These and many other symptoms are signs of inflammation. And one of the most inflammatory things we can eat is Australian wheat!
Problem is, most Australians eat wheat and its products several times a day. If you are reading this blog, you may already know you have an intolerance to wheat or gluten. But why is it so common these days, with every second person having trouble digesting this basic food?
The problem with our wheat
Australian wheat has been hybridised, meaning that it’s been genetically changed to produce a more robust and profitable crop. However, these changes have made the grain very hard to digest and can even cause an immune reaction in some. This reaction is a form of inflammation.
So, how do you know if you are intolerant to wheat or gluten, and which to avoid? And equally important, what can you eat instead? Read on to know the steps to awareness and the tips for living gluten or wheat free.
Diagnosing your wheat or gluten sensitivity
Firstly, you may wish to rule out Coeliac disease, an auto-immune condition where gluten causes damage to the lining of the gut. This is a good first step if you have a family history of any auto-immune condition. The test can be ordered by your GP. You will need to continue eating gluten-containing foods in the lead up to the test, such as wheat, barley and rye. If the test is positive, a life-long gluten free diet is essential, as even traces of gluten can continue to damage the intestinal lining. The more damage done, the less nutrients you will be able to absorb, and the damage is permanent.
Hopefully Coeliac disease is ruled out for you, then you can begin to establish what else might be wrong. (If not, there are natural health protocols to reduce auto-immune flare ups.)
You’ve ruled out Coeliac disease, now what?
Wheat and gluten intolerance is so common now that it’s been termed non-coeliac wheat or gluten sensitivity, and has been studied in scientific papers. The problem is, it’s not a straight forward scientific problem that can be categorised. Symptoms are wide and varying, including irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, and even neuropsychiatric diseases and fibromyalgia (unexplained muscle pains). (See the scientific study here.)
So, the best remedy is to find out what you need to avoid to be healthy and symptom free. And this is an individual thing.
To do this, a food intolerance test can be very helpful, followed by a period of elimination of problem foods. Gradually, each food can be reintroduced and a level of tolerance established. Read more about the testing and elimination here. This protocol has been tried and tested by many patients, both my own and other natural health practitioners, and the results are excellent.
Gut healing practices are implemented during the testing and re-introduction phases, meaning you are better able to tolerate foods as they are added back in. If you prefer not to do the testing, an elimination diet can be equally effective, it just takes a little longer. It requires you to avoid many foods at once (rather than just the ones you are shown to react to), which may make your more reactive in the short term.
What to avoid for GF
If it’s gluten that is the problem, you will need to avoid all the following grains:
- Spelt / kamut or khorasan / farro / bulgar / durum / einkorn (ancient types of wheat)
- Oats (contains avinin, which is similar to gluten, and are often contaminated by wheat)
- Malt (malted milk and syrups, malt vinegar)
- Brewer’s yeast
Watch out for them all in ingredients lists, as well as gluten or additives made from wheat.
What to avoid for wheat-free
However, you may be intolerant to wheat rather than gluten. Cyndi O’Meara, a world-renowned nutritionist, has this to say. “If you are my age and you remember the 1960’s and 1970’s, you probably didn’t know anyone that couldn’t eat their daily bread or were sensitive to gluten, but by the late 1980’s gluten became a poison for more and more people and with research and knowledge we now know why.” The hybridisation of wheat has changed its molecular structure and made it unfamiliar to our immune systems, creating reactions in more and more people.
If this is you, consuming ancient grains such as spelt and khorasan will serve you well, and are the most similar to wheat, so make delicious bread. These days you can buy such breads at health food shops. At times, Coles has a 100% rye bread available, which contains gluten but no wheat. Oats will also be on the menu again, but beware that most commercial oats are contaminated with wheat, so aim for a wheat free version from the health food shop to be safe.
Nutrients in ancient grains lost in our wheat
The added benefit of eating ancient grains, is that they contain all the original nutrients, especially the full complex of B vitamins. Wheat has had the B vitamins removed along with the germ and husk, which is why you see folate and thiamine added to all breads (as a government mandate). Unfortunately, this can be problematic for some people who have a MTHFR gene mutation as they cannot process artificial folate. Another reason your bread could be making you sick! More info on MTHFR on this podcast link here.
Which breads to buy
If you need to avoid gluten altogether, there are only a couple of GF breads I will buy from the supermarkets – and they’re still not great. That is because most are made from white rice (any processed grain can be inflammatory), and multiple additives, including the 280-283 preservatives which have been shown to cause behavioural problems in children. I choose Abbott’s Bakery GF or Helga’s Wholemeal GF (has to be the wholemeal one). You can often get really nice GF breads at the health food shop that contain better ingredients, such as almond meal, psyllium, coconut oil etc. or you may prefer to make your own. I have a recipe with eggs and one without.
For wheat free breads, Bill’s Healthy Bakery has a great selection which can be purchased currently at Coles, whereas Woolies offers no wheat-free breads at the time of publication. Beware of spelt and rye breads that actually contain wheat as well! You need to find the 100% versions.
Pastas come in spelt now too, or for a GF version, there are some great chickpea, red lentil and green pea pastas. Seed crackers are an excellent replacement for wheat, and much healthier. Try Olina’s or Carmen’s.
So, what now?
For more advice on what to eat, and how to find out if you have intolerances, book in for a nutrition consult. I have many testimonials from past clients who I’ve helped here.
Including this little gem from 5 year old Mr B., who said (while sitting on the toilet), “Mummy, that lady on the computer really fixed my tummy, didn’t she!?”. Love that so much! It is exactly why I am here!