This past summer (2019) I was officially diagnosed with a wheat allergy (in addition to my other food allergies). While I was excited to finally have answers to why I had been getting sicker and sicker over the past year, I was left with a feeling of dread. Now what? Could I never eat cake or bread again? Well, I can, and you can too as long as you avoid your allergy in all its forms. Here is a list of all the hidden names and hidden sources of wheat, letting you know what to eat and what to avoid with your wheat allergy.
The day before my allergy testing, I cried into a bowl of “real” pasta, knowing that it was probably the last one I ever would eat. I knew that my life was about to change dramatically, and I was right. However, it changed for the better. Since I stopped eating wheat and gluten, my allergies have improved 100%. I no longer throw-up after eating, my bowels in general are much better, my acne cleared up, my eczema went away, my seemingly random asthma attacks (which were often severe) have decreased, and I am no longer bloated like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. All good things, if you ask me!
The best thing I did was spend hours at the computer searching out hidden names of wheat in foods and things I use in my day-to-day life. I didn’t want to encounter it at all so I could give my body a chance to heal. Now I want to share this list with you so that you can become as healthy as you can be.
Wheat allergy or Celiac Disease?
Wheat allergies and celiac disease can seem similar at first, though they are two very different responses in the body. It is further complicated as they are both reactions of the autoimmune systems. Let’s break down the differences between the two.
Wheat allergies occur when the wheat proteins cause the body to stimulate the immune system into hyperdrive, causing what is known as an allergic reaction. These can be life threatening events that must be treated as quickly as possible, with a trip to the hospital if the reaction is severe. Symptoms include anaphylaxis, asthma, swelling of the tongue and throat, hives, trouble breathing, itching, coughing, rashes, shock, and panic attacks.
Celiac disease is an autoimmune response triggered by wheat and gluten proteins. It causes the body to have attack itself, damaging the stomach and small intestines. IgE does not occur when a person has celiac and therefore, no risk of anaphylaxis is present. A gastroenterologist will assist you with celiac disease. It is just as important to get a diagnosis as long term effects on the body include malnutrition and permanent intestinal damage if left untreated.
Only a doctor can tell you for certain if you have a wheat allergy or celiac disease. Make an appointment with your doctor or allergy specialist if you suspect you have one!
Being Your Own Allergy Advocate
And if you are certain something is wrong, don’t give up! My primary care physician was unconvinced I had developed a new allergy in my late 20s. He was ready to prescribe an anti-acid medication, assuming I was eating too much fast food. However, I was adamant in my knowing that something was wrong and went to a new allergy specialist. I had my blood checked and my IgE levels were off the charts! We did an elimination diet of wheat and saw immediate improvements in my health. Be your own advocate at the doctor’s office, and make sure you take someone with you to help navigate if you need.
What You Can Eat with a Wheat Allergy
Since developing my wheat allergy, I have found myself cooking at home more than ever. My diet has shifted to include simple whole foods, things like meats, vegetables, fruits, beans, lentils, and safe grains. Safe grains include quinoa, teff, millet, white rice, brown rice, corn, and oats. Make sure your oats are labeled gluten free as they often are processed on the same line as wheat.
When I do want a sandwich, I sometimes reach for items on grocery shelves that are labeled gluten free in the dedicated gluten free section of the store. Living with allergies has gotten a lot more convenient since I was a kid when they didn’t have the variety of things we do now!
Canyon Bakehouse Breads are among my favorite breads. Trader Joe’s makes an amazing gluten free everything bagel. Pamela’s makes a great all-purpose gluten free flour. Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s both have AMAZING gluten free pasta options. And I am very lucky to have a local pizza parlor be certified celiac friendly for those nights when I crave a pizza.
What to Avoid with Wheat Allergies
The list of food to avoid with a wheat allergy is long. I’ve included all the ones that I have discovered but I’m sure there are some that I’ve missed. If you know of a wheat/gluten name that I’ve missed, let me know in the comments and I’ll add it to the list!
The list of food to avoid with wheat allergies is as follows:
- Bread crumbs
- Barley malt
- Cereal extract
- Club wheat
- Cracker meal
- Flour (all purpose, bread, white, whole wheat, etc)
- Glucose syrup
- Hydrolyzed wheat protein
- Matzoh, matzoh meal
- Oats (unless labeled gluten free)
- Sprouted wheat
- Soy sauce (unless labeled gluten free)
- Starches (gelatinized starch, modified starch, modified food starch, vegetable starch)
- Vital wheat gluten
- Wheat bran hydrolsate
- Wheat germ oil
- Wheat grass
- Wheat protein isolate
- Whole wheat berries
Eating Out with Wheat Allergies
Perhaps the biggest change to my life has come from dining out with my wheat allergy. I can no long just grab a quick Mc Donald’s for a last minute supper, nor can I eat freely at a friend’s house.
The best way to avoid (or at least try to avoid) getting sick at restaurants is to research ahead of time. Most restaurants post their menus online, which gives me a chance to figure out if this restaurant would be a safe option. Even if the menu says “gluten free” I still will research, because it is really difficult to ensure that a chef who has been flinging flour around a kitchen for hours will make sure to wipe off any surfaces, open new bags of cheese to sprinkle, or even use a different set of gloves when preparing my food.
To that effect, some places I have found to be generally safe include:
- BBQ restaurants (order food that never would encounter a bun)
- Chick-fil-A (offers the most for gluten free, including buns and fries that are cooked in separate fryer)
- Mexican Restaurants
- Outback Steakhouse
- Boston Market
- In-And-Out (order protein style; fries not cooked in contaminated fryer)
- Sonic Drive-In (offers gluten free fries)
- Shake Shack (offers gluten free bun)
- Red Robin (offers gluten free bun, fries are contaminated)
- Panera Bread (their grain bowls and Green Goddess Cobb Salad are gluten free but be careful about this environment that is heavily contaminated with wheat/gluten)
When dining at a friend’s house, I will always ask if I can bring an option that is wheat allergy safe. Follow this link for an article that shares ideas for talking with your family and friends about your allergies.
Other Hidden Sources of Wheat Not in Food
Beyond food, there are places that wheat and gluten can hide, making you sick even though you don’t eat wheat anymore! While you won’t be eating these things, you should be aware that a reaction can occur from touching or smelling wheat. These hidden wheat places include:
- Medications (make sure you talk to your doctor before stopping medications and ask about switching to a wheat free formula)
- Toothpaste (used for thickening and binding agents)
- Wreaths and other home decorations (typically seen as a wheat stalk)
- Play-dough for kids
- Shampoos and conditioners (seen as thickening agents)
- Lotions (seen as thickening agents)
- Make-up (seen as thickening and binding agents)
Make sure you check these places and use the list above to make sure that you and your family are safe from these hidden wheat sources!
Clean up your skincare routine, too!
(It’s basically a spa for your face.)