May 26 2014

Are Wheat-Free and Gluten-Free Diets The Same Thing?

Published by at 5:14 pm under Diet

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Wheat and gluten are often used interchangeably, which can lead to a lot of confusion when we talk about things like a gluten-free diet versus a wheat-free diet. Wheat is a type of grain that is often used to make bread, pasta and flour. Gluten is a protein found within wheat, as well as barley and rye.

In essence, all wheat contains gluten, but gluten can come from grains other than wheat. If you are on a gluten-free diet, you are essentially also on a wheat-free diet, but a wheat-free diet can still contain foods with gluten. Make sense?

The news has been filled with stories of the growing gluten-free population, and a gluten-free diet is the cornerstone of our online dating website. So, what is the difference between a wheat-free diet and a gluten-free diet, and why would someone need to be wheat-free vs. gluten-free?

Wheat Allergies

A small portion of the population suffers from wheat allergies, which is different than a sensitivity to gluten. The symptoms of a wheat allergy include swelling of the throat, itchy skin, watery eyes, congestion, difficulty breathing, and even anaphylaxis in extreme cases. Many young children with wheat allergies outgrow the condition, but some continue to have a wheat allergy their entire life.

Gluten Intolerance

Those with gluten intolerance react to only the gluten protein within the wheat. The most severe form of gluten intolerance is called celiac disease, a condition where the consumption of gluten triggers an immune system attack on the small intestine. This can cause severe inflammation over time and lead to bloating, diarrhea, weight loss, and even malnourishment. Additionally, many people who do not have celiac disease still experience uncomfortable symptoms when they consume gluten. This is known as gluten sensitivity. Researchers continue to debate just how many people are truly sensitive to gluten, but the number has been estimated to be 6% of the population.

Commonalities

A gluten-free diet and wheat-free diet have a lot in common. Both diets restrict anything that contains wheat, like bread, brownies, cookies, even some soups and salad dressings. However, a person on a gluten-free diet must take care to realize that gluten exists in more than just wheat products. They must also stay away from rye and barley. In both cases, wheat-free and gluten-free consumers should focus on a diet of fruit, vegetables and lean meats. If they shop for baked goods, it’s a good idea to stick with products clearly labeled, “gluten-free”. The gluten-free marketplace is growing at a fast pace, and is now more than a $6 billion dollar industry. Wheat-free eaters can also take advantage of this trend, since anything that is gluten-free is also wheat free.

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