Do You Know Nutrition: What's the difference between wheat free and gluten free?

Phylis Canion

After years of so many health problems, I was finally diagnosed with Celiac disease. Although it was not recommended, I opted to give up gluten and am amazed at the difference it has made. I would appreciate an explanation as to the difference between wheat-free and gluten-free? Are there other flours that I could substitute?

Celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder of the small intestine, is caused by a reaction to gliadin, a gluten protein found in wheat as well as rye and barley. When gluten is ingested, this autoimmune condition causes the body to attack itself by destroying intestinal villi, resulting in poorly absorbed nutrients.

Celiac disease is a multisymptom, multisystem disease. Symptoms associated with this disorder include digestive disorders such as bloating, abdominal discomfort, constipation and diarrhea. Unfortunately, nonrelated digestive symptoms can include bone and/or joint pain, depression, weight loss, fatigue, weakness and vomiting.

Celiac disease may also lead to osteoporosis, anemia, infertility, delayed onset of puberty, frequent respiratory infections, memory and concentration problems, some forms of cancer and irritability, according to WebMD.com.

Symptoms can vary from person to person, which is why diagnosis can be difficult. Many people can have the disease for a decade or more before they are diagnosed; however, the longer one goes undiagnosed, the greater the chance of developing long-term complications.

If you have a gluten intolerance, it is important to also avoid pizza, pasta, breakfast cereals, pastries, certain sauces and other wheat flour containing foods.

An important note to remember is that a gluten-free product is wheat-free, but a wheat-free product is not always gluten-free, and not all individuals who have a gluten intolerance are intolerant to wheat and vice versa.

To be gluten-free requires eliminating more foods than just wheat while wheat-free simply means avoiding foods that contain wheat.

The following is a list of gluten- and wheat-free flours that can be substituted: amaranth flour, arrowroot flour, barley flour, brown rice flour, buckwheat flour, chia flour, corn flour/cornmeal, hemp flour, potato flour, quinoa flour, sorghum flour, tapioca flour, teff flour and white rice flour.

Sprouted grains usually contain no bromide or yeast but still contain gluten. For those who have a wheat intolerance but no problem with gluten, sprouted grains are a healthier choice. While there is so much more to write and my space is limited, I simply recommend to everyone: avoid gluten.

Thought for the week: Life is 10 percent of what happens and 90 percent of how we react.

Phylis B. Canion is a doctor of naturopathic medicine and is a certified nutritional consultant. Email her at doc.phyl@yahoo.com. This column is for nutritional information only and is not intended to treat, diagnose or cure.