Friday, 26 October 2018

The Difference between Wheat Free & Gluten Free

If you're a Coeliac, extremely allergic to or just very sensitive to gluten, then I hate to tell you this but there is a difference between something labeled as WHEAT free and GLUTEN free. Although this may be completely obvious or not applicable to some, it is something that has caught me out in the past.


Now that I am trying to only use gluten-free skin care and beauty products it is something that I am becoming more and more aware of. Even more so when you delve into pet food, I will touch on that a little later. Once my body had repaired itself after my Coeliac diagnosis, I found that I was one of the 'lucky' ones that can tolerate wheat.

This may be extremely confusing to those that are newly diagnosed or just don't fully understand all the gluten talk, but if you're a Coeliac can tolerate wheat and then you can still eat it so long as it is gluten-free. Yes, there is such a thing as Gluten Free Wheat, I know it is all very complicated.

Gluten-free (Codex) wheat starch

Gluten-free (Codex) wheat starch is a specially manufactured wheat starch which is washed so it has a level of gluten within the Codex standard (20 ppm or less). The ingredient was first introduced as a basis for substitute products like flour and bread to improve the quality and texture of the products. It must always appear in an ingredients list if it has been used. - Source Coeliac.org.uk.

So what is the difference between a Wheat-Free lifestyle and a Gluten-Free one? 

Firstly you have to understand that, Gluten is a protein found in grains such as wheat, rye, barley, and spelt. So if the protein element is washed down to a standard of 20ppm (parts per million) or less than it can be considered and labeled gluten-free, for those of us who are coeliacs and alike.

So cutting out wheat grain from your diet does not necessarily mean that you will be cutting out gluten since it is also found in other grains within this family. Living a Wheat-Free life means you are removing all wheat products from your diet, such as breads & flour based foods.

The main things you would avoid are as follows:
  • breadcrumbs, 
  • bulgar wheat, 
  • couscous, 
  • wheat germ,
  • wheat gluten, 
  • wheat malt, 
  • durum wheat, 
  • spelt, 
  • flour, 
  • kamut, 
  • rusk,
  • semolina,
  • triticale,
  • hydrolysed wheat protein, 
  • wheat bran,
  • wheat starch, 
  • whole wheat, 
  • einkorn, emmer, farola, & freekah.
However, the Barley grain which does contain gluten but not wheat can be used as an alternative for those following a wheat-free diet. Other alternatives are:
  • buckwheat,
  • corn,
  • maize,
  • oats,
  • quiona,
  • millet,
  • polenta,
  • sorghum & more.
It should also be noted that those following a wheat-free diet usually only suffer from mild discomfort and frequent trips to the loo if they ingest any unwanted wheat. They tend to not have any long-term damage to their body's, as you do with auto-immune diseases.

"So where did I get caught out? I was at a Sundown festival a few years back. I thought I would get some snacks for the day and came across some cheese bite biscuits in Sainsbury's, just small single packs I think. I saw WHEAT-FREE and grabbed them, you know thinking well, nothing about checking for gluten... Upon eating a couple I started to feel it, the pain and discomfort, the dread and knowing of what was soon to come. I was in shock. I had been so good for about a year or so, so read everything I had eaten that day, to my horror found that these wonderfully tasty Wheat-Free goodies did indeed CONTAIN GLUTEN!!!!! Lesson learned, always read the label... story of our lives really."


Now those following a Gluten-Free diet, have it a lot harder, and yes I am biased here. We have to be vigilant, on guard all the time. Weary of cross-contamination and anyone offering out free samples.

For those of us that have to avoid it due to an auto-immune disease, it is not a choice it is a lifestyle, one that has been chosen for us. It is chosen, by our bodies, it is the only medicine available to us, to keep us fit and healthy. If we don't, our bodies will attack from the inside and we will slowly die, from malnutrition, fertility problems, vitamin deficiencies, diabetes, osteoporosis, possibly cancer and so on.

Coeliac UK and other support sites can give you a full list of all the things to avoid, you can also check out my post on being a Coeliac in a World full of Fad Diets.

Those following a gluten-free diet have to avoid anything that contains, may contain or may have even come in contact with gluten. So say goodbye to sharing food, say hello to being rude and asking people if they have washed their hands before they touch any of your condiments. You can always do what I do and pass them some, lightly dropping it in their hand to avoid all contact.

No more buffets, no more unplanned days out because every day is a picnic when you're a coeliac. You can never guarantee that wherever you're going will have food that is suitable for you, so you have to pack your own.

It's not all doom and gloom though, so long as we follow a strict gluten-free diet we stay fit and healthy. Plus with the growing need and want for gluten-free products, the range is pretty good these days and awareness is getting better, albeit slowly.

So to conclude, just because it says WHEAT-FREE does not mean it is GLUTEN-FREE!! Double check and check again, and don't make the mistake I did.

Always be kind, you never know what personal battle people are fighting.

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