Here is some information I have gathered about wheat and gluten:
1. Wheat is Britain’s number one food allergen, yet the average person eats over a quarter of a pound of it every day.
2. Wheat is sprayed with pesticides before and often around harvesting and the normal refinement that follows removes around 70% of its vitamins and minerals.
3. Wheat has been genetically engineered to yield a higher percentage of a sticky protein called gluten. This allows more bubbles to form in the baking process – creating a lighter loaf and reducing manufacturing costs.
4. Gluten has a structure alien to the body’s metabolism. It sticks to anything it touches and surrounds smaller molecules like sugar, cholesterol, fats and salts, which then enter the bloodstream only partially digested.
5. Weevil damage in storage has been greatly reduced since the new versions of wheat were introduced into the food chain. Although it is deemed safe for human consumption, the animals are less keen to touch it….
6. Many people are wheat or gluten sensitive without necessarily showing an immune based response on conventional blood testing.
7. The sticky nature of gluten can lead to constipation by encouraging hardened faecal matter to stick to the intestinal wall. This can upset the balance of friendly and unwanted bacteria in the gut, allowing other organisms such as candida albicans to take hold.
8. Wheat is mucus producing, which can inhibit absorption of nutrients in the digestive tract as well as exaggerate the symptoms of sinusitis and the common cold.
9. Wheat and gluten is not just found in bread. It is an ingredient in cakes, biscuits, couscous, semolina, pasta, some cereals and many sauces. Gluten is found primarily in wheat, but also to a lesser extent in barley and rye. A form of gluten also exists in oats but it is much easier to digest and not recognised as a problem for coeliacs. The main issue with oats is the risk of cross-contamination in the fields and processing plants.
What are the most common symptoms of wheat or gluten sensitivity?
What can I eat instead of wheat/gluten?
First of all, establish you are sensitive to all gluten or just wheat. If it is just wheat, then there are more alternatives open to you, including rye and oats. If gluten is your problem, there are many gluten free flour alternatives, including rice, potato, chick pea, corn, millet and buckwheat. You can either buy gluten free products directly from the specialised sections in the shops or simply be careful what you choose in your general purchases.
There are older versions of wheat, such as Spelt and Kamut, which are not hybrid grains. They produce a heavy, but very tasty and nutritious loaf. They are surprisingly easy to digest as the gluten molecule is largely water soluble and easier to break down. My testing will tell you if these grains are OK for you.
If you are seriously intolerant to all wheat and gluten, you might have a medical condition called celiac. This involves the flattening of the intestinal villi in the gut wall and can only be diagnosed by a doctor. You would need to stay on wheat and other gluten filled products for several weeks before a test, so if you find you feel substantially better without it, you would need to consider whether the benefits of having a medical diagnosis confirmed outweigh the discomforts in having it done. Ask your doctor for more information if you are in any doubt.