Recently, many people are finding that, for their bodies, wheat just isn’t doing it. It seems to be causing more harm than good. But not all wheat sensitivity is created equal. It’s important to understand what goes on in the human body and what the options are. It’s hard to fix an unidentified problem.
In this article, we’re going to break down 5 different options for what may be going on in those people who find that the piece of toast just isn’t what it used to be. Let’s take a look:
#1 Celiac Disease
Celiac Disease is the big name in wheat allergy right now. The good news for many of us is also a risk factor for others. Celiac disease is most likely genetic. Most of the research suggests that celiac is a disease that attacks predisposed individuals – generally those with a first-degree relative with the disease (Parent, child, sibling). So, watch out for those family members.
Celiac is immune-mediated. The presence of gluten causes the immune system to damage the small intestine. The small intestine is lined with little finger-like projections called villi that aid in the absorption of nutrients in the blood stream. In individuals with celiac disease, these villi are damaged and lose the ability to absorb nutrients correctly. This can lead to nutrient deficiency which leads to serious problems. People with celiac disease have a much higher risk of developing other autoimmune diseases. That sounds scary.
The good news is the damage to the intestine can be largely reversed by switching to a gluten free diet. There also is some research being done that shows some promise for Einkorn. First, we need to understand something. A genome is the complete genetic instructions for an organism. Regular wheat contains three complete genomes labeled A, B, and D. Of these, the D Genome demonstrates the most reactivity causative of allergy or intolerance. Thus, species of wheat that lack this genome (Einkorn, Emmer, Durum) are much easier for people sensitive to gluten. Specifically, although Einkorn contains gluten, it only has the A genome. Of all the species, Einkorn showed the least epitopes (the target to which the antibody binds) related to celiac disease. So, although no wheat species has been officially recommended for people with celiac disease, the result of one study of Einkorn showed that, “After exposure to gliadin extracted from einkorn, intestinal biopsies of 8 individuals with celiac disease showed no reduction in intestinal villi height.” It’s something to keep an eye on. See this article for specifics on why that might be.
Despite all the hype, true celiac disease only affects 0.5% to 2% of the world’s population. So, if you have trouble with wheat but don’t think its gone that far, you may have one of the disorders listed below.
#2 Wheat Allergy
A basic wheat allergy only affects about 0.4% of the world’s population. Like any other allergy, wheat allergy is caused from the body having too many immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies specific to food allergens – in this case, wheat. IgE is the antibody that binds to allergens and causes the release of substances that cause inflammation or an allergic reaction. Generally, people with a wheat allergy can handle more wheat than celiac patients.
Most common in children under 6, a wheat allergy generally manifests itself through a type of baby eczema called atopic dermatitis and/or digestive problems. A small part of the population, usually bakers and millers, also may suffer from a type of asthma that comes from inhaling flour particles in the air. Most of us don’t have to worry about this particular problem but it’s a good thing to be aware of.
This stands for Non-Celiac Wheat Sensitivity. This applies to that group of individuals who demonstrate a sensitivity to gluten that isn’t as strong as in those with celiac disease. Research shows a similar adverse reaction from these people as from those with celiac disease. However, the intestinal villi shows no damage. There is probably just a high level of antibodies specific to gluten. People who struggle with this can benefit from a gluten-free diet but may not need to go that far. Many people with gluten sensitivity can enjoy Einkorn because it contains a completely different type of gluten, and less of it. So, it might be good to be checked for Celiac Disease. If the text comes back negative, the problem may be NCWS, which opens a lot of options for you.
#4 Fructose Malabsorption
Another possibility for those who find themselves struggling with wheat may be fructose malabsorption. This means that the body has trouble absorbing free fructose in the digestive tract. Then, the fructose that isn’t absorbed ferments and causes abdominal pain and other symptoms. While consuming standard levels of fructose, between 11% and 38% of healthy individuals show some fructose malabsorption. The diagnosis is done by testing hydrogen and methane in the breath after fructose intake. There is no cure right now for this, but symptoms can be avoided by a change in diet or with dietary supplements that convert fructose into glucose.
IBS is the acronym for the common problem called irritable bowel syndrome. This disorder affects the large intestine. People with IBS may also have issues with wheat because not all of the fructose is absorbed in the small intestine. Then, the fermentation aggravates the symptoms of those with IBS. IBS is very prevalent and affects about 14.1% of Americans and 11.5% of Europeans. While the symptoms like cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, diarrhea and constipation are uncomfortable, IBS normally doesn’t cause major damage. It is something, however, that is probably not going away and will need to be managed with the appropriate diet and lifestyle.
Kucek, Lisa K., Lynn D. Veenstra, Plaimein Amnuaycheewa, and Mark E. Sorrells. “A Grounded Guide to Gluten: How Modern Genotypes and Processing Impact Wheat Sensitivity.” Onlinelibrary.wiley.com. Institute of Food Technologists, 17 Feb. 2015. Web. 30 Mar. 2015.
I am wondering if readers might have heard about the two new proteins that are produced in genetically modified wheat. I read a short blurb about this and wondered if is true. The article said that weight gain is easier with new wheat because the body treats it as an invader and so the bodies response to it is different. (I’m not sure how that works though).
In response to this theory, I am trying to find a “heirloom” wheat that does not have these new proteins (that our bodies have not had sufficient time to adapt to like the 1000’s of years of adaptation to unmodified wheat) so that I can see if the connection to weight gain may be true.
Anyone’s thoughts are welcome.
MaryO: do you have the link to the article you’re referencing? I have been using organic Einkorn and Emmer whole Farro and milled flours from Blue Bird Grain Farm http://www.bluebirdgrainfarms.com/shop/
We love the flavors and texture. Both make dough that is easy to work with IMO.
It is my understanding that there is no GMO wheat on the commercial market at this time? Is there something you have heard about GMO wheat reaching the market? Honestly, the thought of that really makes me nervous!
Also, great articles and thoughts all! Really good information to process. I love Einkorn, and know that commercial/processed/modern wheats are harming people as the food industry creates more products for money rather than health.
Einkorn is non GMO and worth every penny. It is wheat before hybridization…about 5000 years old!! Genetically it is so much healthier and has more protein than all grains on the market.
I have a wheat intolerance I find that I can tolerate Spelt flour, which is an ancient grain, have been using it now for a while ,hope this helps,
omg, GMO wheat is NOT allowed in the U.S. Cross-breading wheat and genetically modified are not the same thing.
This is true. GMO is not the issue with wheat. It’s the hybridization.
Interesting article. Do you have any information as to the suitability of einkorn vs. regular wheat for persons with fructose malabsorption ?
I don’t see anything about my problem with regular wheat. I had none of the gastric or other problems described above. I retained water, could gain 5 lbs. overnight if I ate bread and pastries, which I love. On going gluten free, I lost 10 lbs. in two months. Now, using only einkorn, I am 20 lbs. less than my previous weight. A good weight I could never achieve for most of my life with any diet. I make sourdough pancakes, muffins, and bread, and enjoy them as much as I want.
I am trying to persuade my son and daughter in law to get my wheat allergic, non celiac 3 y/o grandson allergy tested for Einkorn. He scores very high with testing for wheat in general. I worry that his food allergies are not allowing sufficient nutrition. Does anyone have any information about Einkorn flour and wheat allergy? I use Einkorn flour myself because I am gluten sensitive. Since switching, making my own bread, I have slimmed in my belly and have much less joint pain.
Hi I am a research dietitian from Texas who was taught before they started lying to us about protein needs of humans, etc. I wanted to start my own baked goods company and even registered my company name. Then I ate a friend’s seitan soup and was very sick within 20 minutes. Found out I am deathly allergic to wheat. I am also allergic to beef so we live in the country and raise as much of our own organic food as we can. I also have EI from working in med research too long.
We are thinking of moving down to the Texas gulf coast where there is good sandy loam. Would einkorn be able to grow in a subtropical environment? Right now we live in central Texas- temperate climate. Thank you.
Hi Katherine, thank you for the question. The berries we sell on our website are intended for food, and we do not have einkorn seed available for sale due to limited supply. Einkorn naturally comes with a hull/husk on it and that husk has been removed from the berries so that they can be used for food. Removal of the hull is accomplished with very little kernel damage. They germinate, but without the hull, the seedlings lack vigour. If you were able to acquire seed, they should be fine in the areas you mentioned. The biggest challenge with growing einkorn is removing the husk after harvest because it requires a special machine that is very expensive. If you can find someone with a rice dehuller, I’ve heard those will also work.
I have never heard that:
“Generally, people with a wheat allergy can handle more wheat than celiac patients.”.
I thought people with allergies may have extremelt limited tolerances.
I am highly allergic (3 to 5 ppm tested product reaction). But I am wondering if Einkorn might work. Afraid to try it!
Hi Denise, of course it depends on the severity of the allergy. Einkorn is very different in genetic makeup from modern wheat. However, not knowing the specifics on your case, I would be hesitant to recommend that you try it. I would suggest consulting your doctor first.
Would eincorn flour be good to eat if you have an allergy to:
Wheat flour, struck ergot D100
Wheat flour D6 D?
Hi Yvonne, thank you for the question. I would check with your doctor. I am not familiar with those allergies, but einkorn and modern wheat are not the same. They have very different properties, but not knowing the exact details of those allergies, it’s hard to know whether it would be safe for you.
I had found out that I was allergic to ground wheat and wheat in the environment. I suffered with what they called IBS. I’m not allergic to gluten but my numbers are high. How would this differ from the Einkorn Wheat? I gave up wheat for now since my stomach is bleeding. Just having had an upper and lower GI done. Dr. has no idea why my stomach looks like that. He thought it was aspirin.; which I take rarely. When I mentioned wheat he said that it could be. I did my own test since I have no one that can help me other than take medication that they want me take. I just want someone to help figure out my next step, plus what restrictions I should really be taking. I hate having to give up wheat! If anyone can help to tell me what is different from ground wheat versus any wheat for that matter.
Hi Jacky, thank you for your question. It’s hard to say when I don’t know exactly what causes your IBS, but einkorn is all around easier on the digestive system. From what I understand, IBS can also be caused by an issue with the bacteria in your stomach. Sometimes yeast has something to do with that. Yeast really isn’t very good for our bodies. As you begin to reintroduce grain, I’d recommend sticking with sourdough to start. The way sourdough works is the starter has natural bacteria that partially digest the grain for you. It makes it much easier to digest and helps you avoid yeast. Sourdough plus einkorn would be where I would start if I were you, but it may be best to consult a doctor.
Did your Dr. Collect a stool sample? Parasites like Giardia can totally destroy your gut and because of that you will have pain, malabsorption, loose stools and fatigue. There are a few other parasites that affect your gut… check out this website and others for me info: