A wheat free diet has many health benefits, but itâ€™s important to know the facts. Here, our nutritionist Lucy-Ann Prideaux reveals all you need to know about wheat and healthy snacking.
Wheat and gluten are often used interchangeably, but itâ€™s important to understand that whilst wheat and gluten do go hand in hand, they are two distinct different groups of proteins.
Gluten is not only present in wheat; itâ€™s also present in other grains too, such as barley, rye, oats, spelt and kamut grain. Wheat (and therefore gluten), is present in thousands of everyday foods worldwide including breads and bread products, cakes, biscuits and bars, buns, pizzas, wraps, rolls and a great majority of processed foods.
As some of you may be aware, even simple packaged foods such as soups, ready meals and sweets contain fillers such as wheat flour, and therefore contain gluten too.
Here are some documented problems associated with eating wheat:
Gluten can pose a serious threat for those with a diagnosed gluten allergy, commonly known as coeliac disease. The protein acts like a poison to the lining of the gut, creating inflammation, damage and decay to the cells. As you might expect, this causes serious digestive and health complications.
However, what is becoming more common, and more apparent to doctors and other health professionals is the increasing incidence of gluten â€œintoleranceâ€ or sensitivity, whereby gluten is being identified as a significant contributor to health and gut problems (like leaky gut), even without a positive test for full-blown gluten allergy.
Here are some likely reasons:
The only way one can really tell if gluten, wheat, or any food or substance, is a significant cause of your health or gut problems, is to eliminate it from the diet. Whilst testing can certainly help identify gluten sensitivity, the only way a person will really know if gluten is problematic is by doing the gold standard â€œallergy testâ€ â€“ i.e. eliminating the suspect food for 2-4 weeks.
Gluten is the not the easiest thing to take out of the diet, although, given a little direction, it is certainly do-able. The results for many people are well worth the effort. Remember that gluten is not just present in wheat. It is part of other grains too, such as barley, spelt, rye and even oats, as well as many products. Whilst some gluten-intolerant individuals can tolerate some oats in the diet, I suggest trying one week totally gluten-free. Be very aware of the â€œhiddenâ€ sources of gluten like soups, soup mixes, tinned foods, and even non-food related products such as lipsticks.
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