Today, more than ever before, wheat allergies are becoming more common. Whether it’s GMOs causing more sensitivity, celiac disease, a gluten sensitivity, or some other culprit, having a wheat allergy on the homestead can be challenging. My own personal discovery of having a wheat allergy came on suddenly without warning.
One day, seemingly overnight, I suddenly had dinner plate sized hives all over my body. A visit to the doctor and several antihistamines later I still couldn’t find any relief. The hives were intensely itchy and I couldn’t stand to have any clothing rub up against them. So I went on an elimination diet.
For anyone who has ever been on an elimination diet, you know the drill. Rice, rice, and more rice. After 2 weeks of only rice, you can slowly add in other foods until you discover what it is that you’re allergic to. No fun to be sure! I was hungry for anything but rice after just a few days. In fact, when I completed the 3 week rice fast, I didn’t want to look at another grain of rice for several months.
In my case the culprit that was causing my hives was everything wheat. That meant no bread, no pasta, no pre-packaged foods, no fun. I was so frustrated. I lost nearly 40 pounds in a short few weeks. Not that I didn’t need to lose it, but that was certainly not how I’d planned on losing weight.
I think I spent several months in mourning over losing out on some of my favorite foods before I finally pulled myself together. So, since that day, over 8 years ago, I’ve learned what foods and ingredients that I have to avoid with my wheat allergy. Wheat allergies tend to affect everyone slightly differently and what one person might be able to tolerate another may not be able to tolerate at all.
Surprising Culprits Of Wheat
It’s important to understand that you’ll find wheat in some foods and sauces you’ve never thought of, so the first thing that you need to begin doing is reading your labels. Anything that has wheat, rye, or barley will need to be avoided for many.
Don’t forget wheat germ oil or “other ingredients”, or even the ever present “Modified food starch”, often, wheat is added into some of these ingredients. If it’s just wheat you’re allergic to you may, or may not be able to get away with rye and barely.
Another sneaky culprit is products that may have been processed on machinery that formerly processed wheat. In this category, you’ll find many oatmeal products and other similar processed products.
Read the fine print that states “This product may have been processed on equipment that has processed wheat”. You’ll also want to avoid these products if you’re particularly sensitive to wheat.
When you think of wheat and bread they seem to go hand in hand. This list of breads and cereals to avoid can seem daunting however, if you have a wheat allergy, it just may save your life to avoid such foods. If nothing else it can save you from having hives and other wheat sensitive reactions to wheat products.
- Bread products that contain wheat
- Bread crumbs used for frying foods
- Breaded foods
- Cakes (this can include such things as cheeses cakes so read labels)
- Cereals and cereal products
- Cookies (prepackaged and homemade unless they are made with wheat free flours)
- Crackers and cracker meals or products
- Duram products
- Hydrolyzed wheat protein products
- Matzoh products
- Wheat bran products
- Wheat germ oil
- Wheat grass
Sauces And Other Unexpected Culprits
Many people mistakenly think that they can eat sauces and other liquid products without hesitation. Unfortunately, many sauces have wheat products in them. Whether it’s to thicken the product or add flavor, these can trigger a reaction if there is a wheat allergy.
Again, read labels closely. There are many sauces that state “Gluten Free”. Choose these over other sauces especially when it comes to specialty sauces.
- Asian foods
- Baked goods
- Baking blends and mixes
- Batters and batter fried foods
- Coffee creamers (read labels, there are some that have wheat and some that don’t)
- Hot dogs and other processed meats
- Imitation meats (crab meat and other imitation products)
- Ice creamers
- Marinara sauces
- Potato chips
- Rice cakes
- Salad dressings
- Soups (especially cream soups)
- Soy sauce (they do make a good gluten free version of Soy Sauce)
- Starches (labels will read modified food starch, vegetable starch, and gelatinized starches)
- Syrups that list wheat or wheat products on the labels
It’s important to note that most of the above-mentioned products do come in gluten or wheat free versions. Read the labels carefully and watch for any wheat products before eating anything. You quickly learn to read every label before you buy.
Also, remember that product recipes change frequently so don’t rely on one brand, read the labels each and every time you purchase a product to avoid any contamination or cross contamination from wheat that may suddenly appear in a product due to a recipe change or equipment, manufacturer change.
You’ll find wheat in some interesting products. You’d never expect to find wheat in your shampoo or conditioner, however, some are infused with “wheat germ oil”. Be aware of this and read every label for every product that you purchase.
Even if a product was safe to use last week, if you’re purchasing another of the same product, read the label. Manufacturers are always updating their ingredients list and changing things to “fine tune” their products. Always be aware of this and read and re read labels.
Many skin care products have wheat germ oil in them as well or even other wheat products. Read makeup labels or check out websites to ensure that your favorite brand of makeup doesn’t have any wheat in the ingredients.
Keep in mind that you may find wheat in your favorite base or cover product as well as in eye shadows, mascara, and even some eyeliners. Lipstick may be infused with wheat germ oil as well as lip balms and oils.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions of knowledgeable staff (health food stores have fairly knowledgeable staff as opposed to a grocery store that my simply say “read the label”).
If you’re in the deli area of a grocery store be very careful of what you’re purchasing. Many seemingly innocent products aren’t so innocent. Worse, sometimes there is cross contamination with wheat products. This is especially true of fried products as well as salads.
Another area that you may wish to consider when reading the label is that little blurb at the end of the ingredients “this product may have been manufactured on equipment that processed wheat products…”.
You’ll see this in some seemingly innocent products. Depending on how sensitive your body is to wheat you may also need to avoid these products as well.
Play Dough is another thing that you may have to avoid. If you have young children and you have a wheat allergy your children may have it as well. You won’t be able to purchase commercial play dough for your children so you’ll have to make your own out of a wheat free flour product.
Read the dish soap label and make sure there is no wheat germ oil in your dish soap. Other cleaning products may also have wheat germ oil in them so before you clean with your favorite cleaner, read the label. You may wish to switch to all natural cleaners or use vinegar in place of your favorite spray cleaners.
What Can You Eat?
At this point, you may feel like you can’t eat anything. I don’t blame you, that’s exactly how I felt and I began to lose a lot of weight. I was so hungry but all I was eating was meat and vegetables. I wish I could say that it was an easy transition, but it wasn’t. I was miserable!
Thankfully, my daughter and I planned out a shopping trip. She read labels (young teenaged girl eyes are usually better than mom eyes for reading the fine print). She would “approve” of the products and then hand them to me to see if I would like them.
We found some unique products, a few we didn’t ever try again, and some that the entire family loves all wheat free.
Here are some food replacements that I’ve learned work well when you have to avoid wheat in your diet:
• Use corn or rice pasta in lieu of wheat based pastas. You can find these in most larger grocery stores and a few of the smaller ones have them as well. You’ll typically find the words “Gluten Free” on the front of the box. Read the label and make sure that it’s a corn or rice base and has no wheat in the product.
• Wheat free (or gluten free) sauces
• Wheat free flours (almond flour, rice flour, soy flour, coconut flour, buckwheat flour and more
• Corn or rice based cereals (read the labels)
• Fresh foods including fresh meats and vegetables that haven’t been processed.
Common Signs Of a Wheat Allergy
There are some very telling signs of a potential wheat allergy. Not everyone is going to have these, and some will have only one or two while others may have just about every symptom and then some. Keep in mind that these may come on suddenly without warning. These common signs of a wheat allergy include the following symptoms:
- Sensation of walking on marbles
- Joint pain
- Hives for no apparent reason
- Digestive issues including gut pain
- Overly tired for no apparent reason
- Unexplained weight loss
- Skin issues (rashes, psoriasis etc.)
- Auto Immune disorders
- Numbness in limbs
- Brain fog
There are other symptoms as well that may be more subtle for wheat allergies. Please keep in mind that these symptoms may also be telling of other medical conditions so if eliminating wheat from the diet isn’t helping it’s definitely time to see the doctor.
All-Natural Foods and Other Tips and Tricks
Many grocery stores and larger big box stores have a gluten free section where you can shop. These are a huge bonus for anyone who has a wheat sensitivity. Unfortunately, many of these products are a bit more pricey than those products that contain wheat.
Consider shopping at Farmer’s Markets, Organic Food Marts, and growing your own foods. Choose almond flours, coconut flour, rice flour and even organic oat flours in lieu of wheat flour products. Bake from scratch and learn proper substitutions for wheat products.
It’s easy to think of a wheat free diet as restricting. However, with some ingenuity and creativity, you can still enjoy many of your favorite foods. You’ll just learn how to substitute for your favorite foods.
Depending on the reason for the wheat allergy you may be able to enjoy sourdough bread. If it’s a gluten free allergy, sourdough bread is okay to eat as long as it’s allowed to rise for over 7 hours. This was a life saver for me. I just make sure to buy a good brand of sourdough (not the grocery store brand typically) and so far it hasn’t caused me any issues.
Wheat allergies can pop up suddenly without warning. As we age our bodies begin to tell us that we’ve had enough of something or we develop sensitivities to certain products. This is what happened to me with wheat/gluten.
Not every person is going to have the same symptoms and it may be tempting to give in and have something with wheat in it now and again. Try hard to avoid giving in to such temptations as the long term effects can wreck havoc on your body and make you absolutely miserable.