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Wheat free diets: Treatment, symptoms, advice and help


Why is it used?

Some people have found that the feeling of bloating may improve if wheat is removed from the diet. It is often only a cure for a few people, but wheat free diets are being used more frequently to test whether someone is intolerant to wheat.

Who would require the diet?

The symptoms of wheat intolerance or wheat allergy may occur directly after consumption or some time after and can be clearly attributed to wheat and wheat products.

What is the diet and how does it work?

The diet requires the avoidance of wheat and wheat containing foods.

In principal it sounds easy to just avoid foods with wheat present and all is well, the problem is that wheat is found in so many foods, which makes the diet more difficult to keep to. Wheat is used for breads, cereals and pasta and these form a major part of the diet.

Cereals which are allowed are rye, barley, oats rice and rice flours, corn or maize, cornmeal, polenta and cornflour, arrowroot, amaranth, buckwheat, millet, quinoa, sorghum, teff, sago, tapioca, cassava and the flours of potato, beans and chickpea (gram).

Some cereals that are closely related to wheat should also be avoided such as kamut, spelt, triticale, which also contain gluten. Bulgar wheat, durum wheat, semolina and couscous are also forbidden.

Care should be taken to avoid the risk of cross contamination of cereals, the food that they may be eating is naturally free of gluten, but there is always the possibility that there may be cross contamination in manufacturing.

Although there are many similarities to the gluten free diet for Coeliac Disease, individuals on a wheat free diet are not eligible for foods on prescription.

Will the diet harm me?

The biggest problem with avoiding a major food item from the diet is replacing it, wheat as breads, pasta and some breakfast cereals are major contributors to the diet of starchy carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. Replace wheat and wheat products with other good sources of carbohydrate such as rice and potatoes. Diets low in carbohydrate are much higher in protein and fats.

What else do I need to know?

The starch from wheat may be used for food processing; a food product may be made of non gluten containing foods such as milk, eggs, meats or fish. However, the ingredients may include starch, there is no obligation for manufacturers to list the source of the starch on their ingredients list i.e. whether it is wheat or corn, so this can lead to many problems.

If there is no relief from the original symptoms after 2 weeks eating a wheat free diet then it is best to reintroduce wheat.

It is possible to be misled on the benefits of a wheat free diet, omitting wheat, often means omitting butter or margarine, and probably eating fewer calories. Some of the benefits of a wheat free diet may indeed be simply to losing weight.

Where else can I get help?

If the diet is prescribed by the doctor for a medical condition then help should sought from a State Registered Dietitian who can help assess if the diet is nutritionally balanced. All doctors have access to a dietitian within the NHS alternatively you can contact the British Dietetic Association who can provide names of qualified dietitians who offer their services privately and who are able to help.

The British Dietetic Association
5th Floor,
Charles House
148/9 Great Charles Street Queensway
Birmingham B3 3HT

Tel: 0121 200 8080
Fax: 0121 200 8081

British Allergy Foundation
Deepdene House
30 Bellgrove Road
DA16 3PY

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