Wheat Intolerance – Gluten Intolerance – what is the difference?

So often I am asked to explain what is the difference between wheat and gluten, how come I can eat one and not the other? Let me explain it as simply as possible.

Symptoms of an intolerance to wheat / gluten:

Runny nose and eyes, sneezing, tiredness, skin rashes/lumps or irritations, change in bowel movements to constipation/ diarrhoea, itchy red eyes, weight-gain/weight-loss, stomach cramps, headaches? These symptoms may lead you to think you have a food intolerance. Here we will look at wheat and gluten. So what exactly is the difference between the two?

Gluten is a protein, which can be found in many cereals such as wheat, rye, barley, spelt, etc It gives bread and other bakery products structure, elasticity and chewiness. The degree of intolerance for individuals varies from mild reactions to severe. Coeliac disease is the result of damage to the cells or villi in the small intestine due to the presence of gluten, whereby others foods and nutrients fail to be absorbed, resulting in weight loss, fatigue, poor concentration and much more.

Other than suffering from coeliac disease, you may be intolerant to gluten or wheat simply because you eat too much of it and you may have a build up of it in your system. The body loves variety. Its gets tired of seeing, dealing with and breaking down the same old foods every day, just like we get fed-up with the same old routine all of the time. That’s why we go on holidays, for a break. Treat your body to a break by eating a WIDE Variety of foods.

What can you eat instead of gluten?: Corn, rice, quinoa, potatoes, millet, buckwheat and there flours to name some of the most common ones. There are also many ready mixes which will have numerous different blends of various gluten free grains, and gluten free oats can be used too.  Check to ensure the label clearly states gluten free as oats are normally contaminated from wheat cereals during harvesting or processing.

Having intolerance to wheat usually means just the cereal wheat itself. You can usually eat other cereals which are gluten containing such as rye, barley, spelt etc.   As wheat is a staple food item and has so many functions as a carrier, thickener, bulking agent and so on it is widespread in so many products that you would never think of such as ice-cream, some yoghurts, sauces, sweets, pastas, pizzas, all bakery products and much more. Elimination of wheat and gluten from the diet for a while is great whether you have an intolerance or not..you may see improvements in your skin, energy levels and bowel habits, motivation levels and lots more. Spelt is a cousin to wheat and is much easier tolerated by many.(However not if you are coeliac)

Read all labels, which should declare gluten and wheat as an allergen. Avoid where necessary. As I have said in previous articles, you need to get to the root cause of the intolerance in the first place and vary your diet as much as possible with plenty of simple foods such as fruit and vegetables.