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5 signs you have a wheat intolerance
October 15th 2014
Nutritionist Helen Williams gives us the skinny on the 5 main signs that you may be suffering from an undiagnosed wheat intolerance
Have you been feeling a little sluggish or off-balance lately but can’t quite put your finger on why? It’s possible that, like one in every 100 adults in the UK, you have an undiagnosed wheat intolerance.
We asked Functional Nutrition Consultant and GTG expert Helen Williams to tell us why wheat affects many of us and which symptoms can signal a wheat intolerance or allergy.
Intolerance vs allergy
“A true wheat allergy is antibody mediated, is thought to be very rare and involves an immune system response which gives rise to a sudden onset of symptoms such as asthma, urticaria and rhinitis.”
“A wheat intolerance however, is more common and its symptoms are more varied and differ from one person to another. There can be a delayed onset of symptoms from a few hours or often two to three days later, which makes it very difficult to diagnose”
What has changed with wheat?
“The growing of grain crops (wheat farming) has only been practiced for around 10,000 years,” says Helen. “Compared to the time humans have been eating other foods in the hunter-gatherer lifestyle (meat, fish, vegetables and fruits) - two-and-a-half million years - that's a very short period. Actually, if you condense our total existence into one week, the time we have been eating grains would only take up one-and-a-half hours of that week!”
“Our bodies just haven't evolved that fast. Our capacity to grow high-yield grain crops such wheat has far outstripped our digestive system's rate of development. In addition, the type of wheat we are eating now is totally different to that which was eaten even in the 1950s. Modern wheat has been hybridized to increase yield, starch and gluten content, so the wheat we consume today bears little resemblance to that of our ancestors.”
Here are the five main symptoms which may suggest you have a wheat intolerance, says Helen.
1. Increase in abdominal fat
Did you know that eating two slices of wholewheat bread raises blood sugar more than two tablespoons of pure sugar would? Rapid increases in blood sugar can lead to high insulin levels, which in turn cause the deposition of abdominal fat. It’s been shown that visceral fat (belly fat) is highly inflammatory and in turn can lead to insulin resistance and Type 2 diabetes.
2. Inflammation and general unrest in the body
Coeliac disease is when the body creates antibodies to the gluten in the wheat. However there is another kind of gluten sensitivity - non-coeliac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) caused when the digestive system is unable to break down food containing gluten that results in a more generalised immune system activation. This means that people can be gluten sensitive without having coeliac disease or gluten antibodies and still have the inflammation and other symptoms that can be similar to those of coeliac disease – fatigue, abdominal bloating, flatulence, diarrhoea, constipation or a mixture of both. It is thought that some cases of IBS may be due to NCGS.
MORE GLOSS: Will going wheat-free make you healthier?
3. Skin issues or swollen, painful joints
The inflammation mentioned above can spread like a wildfire throughout the body. It can damage the gut lining leading to systemic inflammation and a whole list of possible symptoms such as joint swelling and pain, and skin issues including psoriasis, acne, eczema.
Depression is a common symptom of gluten intolerance. People with gluten intolerance have low levels of the brain chemical serotonin, which is thought to be a contributor to feelings of well-being and happiness.
5. Experience cravings and binges
Opioid-like breakdown products in wheat can be super addictive and cause cravings and bingeing. The digestive process breaks down proteins in wheat to exorphins called gluteomorphins – gluten and morphine. These are similar to the endorphins or ‘feel good hormones’ you get from a runners high and can bind to receptors in the brain causing cravings, making it very difficult to give up wheat.
Want to test?
If you think you might be suffering from some of these symptoms, Helen recommends a test with registered healthcare professionals, www.cyrexlabs.com.