With the rising number of people with gluten sensitivities and celiac disease, “gluten-free” and “wheat-free” have become household terms and are often used interchangeably. Are they the same, though? If you’ve ever wondered what it means to be “wheat-free” and “gluten-free,” keep reading.
First off, what exactly is gluten? Gluten is a protein that is found in many grains, including wheat. It’s the substance responsible for dough’s sticky texture and it’s what gives baked goods their chewiness. In addition to wheat, gluten can also be found in grains like rye, spelt, and barley. Therefore, foods that contain the wheat grain also contain gluten, but not all foods that are wheat-free are gluten-free. It is worth noting that not all wheat products contain gluten, only products that contain the wheat grain.
A wheat-free diet
A wheat-free diet isn’t the same as a gluten-free diet. In the case of people who have wheat allergies or sensitivities, a wheat-free diet (potentially containing gluten from other grains) can be suitable for their lifestyle.
If you ever experience bloating or discomfort after eating wheat, it might be worthwhile to cut wheat from your diet for a couple of weeks to see if it makes a difference for you. While you may not have a wheat allergy, it is possible that you are sensitive to it. Wheat sensitivities may also trigger headaches, brain fog, joint pain, and skin issues. If you have a wheat sensitivity, you may notice that these symptoms begin to subside within a couple of weeks after abstaining. Many people who have pursued a wheat-free diet report that their symptoms either significantly subsided or disappeared altogether within 3 months.
A gluten-free diet
Going gluten-free is a little more complicated than going wheat-free. Not only do you have to avoid products containing the wheat grain, you must also abstain from products containing anything with gluten proteins. This isn’t always easy; gluten is sneaky! It can be found in processed foods, sauces, beverages, condiments, sweeteners, and even toiletries and cosmetics. Those with celiac disease and gluten sensitivities often find themselves spending some serious time reading labels, researching menus, and planning meals.
Gluten sensitivities can produce symptoms similar to wheat sensitivities. If you suspect you have a gluten sensitivity, try eliminating gluten from your diet completely for at least three weeks, and take note of how you feel. Try reintroducing gluten (slowly) into your diet to see if any of your previous symptoms resurface.
Celiac disease is diagnosed through a blood test with your doctor. Those with celiac disease usually have a full-blown gastrointestinal reaction when they are exposed to gluten, but some may not, and instead experience symptoms of brain fog, depression, achy joints, lethargy, and irritability. The Celiac Disease Foundation estimates that 1 in 100 people have celiac disease, and most are not diagnosed.
If you suspect that you have a gluten or wheat sensitivity, it can be worthwhile to try a gluten-free or wheat-free diet to observe how you feel. Of course, please consult your doctor before making any drastic changes to your diet.
Have you ever tried a gluten or wheat-free diet? We want to hear from you- share your experiences with us here!
This blog is not intended to provide diagnosis, treatment or medical advice. Content is for informational purposes only. Please consult with a physician or other healthcare professional regarding any medical or health related diagnosis or treatment options.