Next on my “Know Your Ingredients” blog posts, is about the names of wheat and what products can contain wheat. There are many different reasons for avoiding wheat and needing to know the information in this post. There were some things I was not aware of. There are 3 major reasons why people avoid wheat.
- Celiac Disease: This is an autoimmune disorder that shows itself in a reaction while ingesting gluten. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. The reaction causes villous atrophy (flattening of the cells lining the small intestine) which can lead to malabsorption of nutrients, which then can lead to other health issues. There are over 200 related symptoms to celiac disease but some of them involve anemia, behavioral changes, stunted growth, joint pain, and head aches.
- Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity or Gluten Sensitivity: This is not well defined. It is not an autoimmune disorder like celiac disease, and it is not an immune response like an allergy. There is more research and seeing if there are other components involved in causing the symptoms. The only way this is diagnosed is to rule out celiac disease and a wheat allergy, but following a gluten free diet is beneficial and improves symptoms.
- Wheat Allergy: This, like other food allergies, is an immune reaction to any of the hundreds of proteins found in wheat, not just gluten. There is an immune reaction which one type of white blood cell sends out IgE antibodies to “attack” wheat and the rest of the body might send other chemical reactions to warn the rest of the body. This can involve abdominal pain, itching, swelling, nausea, swelling, trouble breathing, or anaphylaxis shock to name a few. The person might have to avoid wheat, but might not have to avoid gluten from non-wheat sources.
The only way to know the reason for any reaction, is to get tested. Wheat was one of the food allergies I had as a kid and eventually grew out of with age, and gluten doesn’t seem to bother me. However, one thing I do know, is that mixing your grains and getting a variety is helpful still. If I have too much wheat or gluten in the form of seitan (soy-free plant based ‘meat’ alternative) I will have some cramping and digestion upsets. So even if you do not have an allergy, sensitivity, or an autoimmune disorder that you know of, limiting or exchanging sources of wheat in your everyday diet is not a bad thing to do in general.
Just like corn and soy, wheat is in “everything”. Here is a list I got from Kids with Food Allergies.
***Note a lot of the reasons for avoiding wheat is because of gluten, but this post is for wheat in general. Not a list of ingredients that can contain gluten, but can contain wheat as a whole.
- All-Purpose Flour
- Bread (made with any kind of wheat flour, white flour, or bread crumbs)
- Bulgar Wheat
- Cereal Extract
- Cracker Meal
- Emmer aka Farro
- Flour (atta, club, common, durum, einkorn, emmer, farina, graham, kamut, maida, semolina, spelt, triticale, triticum)
- Flour (all-purpose, bread, bromated, cake, enriched, high gluten, high protein, instant pastry, phosphated, plain, soft wheat, steel ground, stone, ground, self-rising, unbleached, white, whole wheat)
- Gluten (wheat gluten, vital gluten, vital wheat gluten, fu)
- Kamut (khorasan wheat)
- Malt, Malt Extract
- Matzo (Matzo Meal, matzoh, matzah, matza)
- Noodles, pasta
- Wheat, whole wheat (Wheat berries, wheat bran, whole wheat bread, whole wheat flour, wheat germ, wheat germ oil, wheat protein isolate, wheat starch, wheat sprouts, sprouted wheat)
Can Include Wheat
- Artificial flavoring, natural flavoring
- Caramel Color
- Food Starch, gelatinized starch, modified starch, modified food starch, vegetable starch
- Glucose syrup
- Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein (HVP) and Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP)
- Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
- Soy Sauce, Shoyu, Tamari, Teriyaki Sauce
- Vegetable Gum
- Personal Care Items like make-up, shampoo, etc. can contain wheat ingredients.
Cross Contamination / Cross Reactivity
If you are needing to absolutely avoid gluten or wheat, know that cross contamination can happen with manufactured products. Unless they are a “gluten free” manufacturer, there can be small amounts of gluten or wheat that can make it’s way into the package. Most labels will have “made in a factory with …” and it will have wheat among the list. Know that you can react to those products.
Cross reactivity can happen when plants are similar and have similar proteins to one another. For instance, if you are allergic to wheat, there is a 20% chance you could be allergic to other grains. To make sure always get tested.
Always get tested when you are questioning what it is you might have. Whether you have been diagnosed with a disease, allergy, sensitivity, or looking to limit your wheat intake keep in mind the list here. The other thing, is trying to buy and eat things without a label: fresh fruits, vegetables, other grains (can also have gluten-free on the package, like oats), nuts, seeds, etc. You won’t have to go as crazy as you might think reading labels if you eat whole foods that naturally do not contain gluten or wheat ingredients.