Thursday, 19 April 2012

Is Wheat Making You Bloat?

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Wheat is one of the most common causes of food related allergy or intolerance, yet we have been eating it for thousands of years. 

Wheat intolerance is not the same as coeliac disease or an allergy to gluten.  Coeliac disease is an autoimmune disease whereby the body rejects gluten present in wheat, barley, rye and contaminated oats.  It affects the lining of your small intestine and may have a genetic component.  A strict gluten free diet for life is a very large aspect of the treatment for coeliac disease.  If you suspect that you or your child may have coeliac disease, please speak to your doctor.  

For further information on coeliac disease, visit Coeliac UK on

Wheat intolerance on the other hand is not as clearly understood.  Again it is separate to wheat allergy whereby food allergies illicit an immune response whilst intolerances do not. 

Intolerance to wheat may be characterised by abdominal pain, bloating, wind, diarrhoea or constipation.  Symptoms may occur several hours after eating a food consisting wheat.  In some children and adults, symptoms may not occur until days after consuming the offending food.  This can be frustrating as it may be difficult to pin point exactly which foods cause pain and discomfort without the expert guidance of a specialist dietitian. 

You may have already consulted your GP who was not able to explain the cause of your abdominal pain and other related symptoms.  You feel misunderstood and confused as the symptoms may have only appeared in the past year.  Or you’ve been diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome.  This can certainly be associated with wheat intolerance, and yet you are not sure if wheat really is the problem.  The bad news is that it is difficult to obtain an accurate diagnosis for food intolerances.  So what can you do?

From experience, the only way to know for sure is to exclude.  An exclusion diet consists of excluding the troublesome foods (i.e. wheat) from your diet for a minimum of 6 – 8 weeks.  It is best to follow these diets under the guidance of a specialist dietitian.  Do it alone and you run the risk of needing to repeat the exclusion diet because you included hidden sources that slipped in un-noticed.  Inexperience with exclusion diets can also lead you to exclude the wrong foods without careful consideration to vital vitamins, minerals and macronutrients.


What to look out for

If you are considering a wheat free diet did you know that wheat, rye and all foods containing these grains must be excluded as part of the exclusion diet?  Did you also know that thickeners, edible starch and things like batter may contain wheat?

Always check processed meats, cheese spreads, breakfast cereals, ice cream, flavoured crisps, stock cubes, ketchup and salad creams to name a few. 

Foods labelled as gluten free may not necessarily be wheat free, so always read the ingredient list to check for hidden sources of wheat.

If you do suffer from irritable bowel syndrome and would like to trial a wheat free exclusion diet, then ask your doctor to refer you to a specialist dietitian.  The dietitian can guide you safely on how to exclude and then re-introduce wheat back into the diet to confirm the intolerance. 

If wheat is a problem then I won’t be surprised if after the trial, you decide to never go back..

If you have questions about following a wheat free exclusion diet, then feel free to post your thoughts below.

Please comment below, I really look forward to and love, read all of your comments!


  1. Interesting, I've suffered from IBS for years and never thought of wheat being a problem. 6 weeks without wheat sounds difficult but when you have a bad bout with IBS it would be worth it.
    Thanks for sharing this informative post!

  2. You are very welcome Lisa. Thank you for visiting my blog.

    There are many triggers for bad episodes of IBS, the key is identifying what these are for you. For example, coffee, alcohol, stress or wheat etc The good news is that some people can tolerate small amounts of wheat from time to time, but everyone is different and it's important to recognise that.

    If you do try a wheat free diet, let me know how it goes for you. I hope you have positive results with the exclusion diet.