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  • Carla Evans

Gluten-free and Wheat-free - what's the difference?

Hi everyone,

I had a couple of discussions last week with clients about gluten - both for different reasons and it reminded me about the importance of distinguishing between gluten and wheat.

What is the difference between Gluten & Wheat?

Gluten is an umbrella term for a group of proteins found in wheat, rye, barley and oats.  The main types of gluten are listed below in order of highest to lowest gluten content.  For a lot of people the main culprit is wheat followed by rye.  In severe allergy states such as Coeliac disease people need to avoid all four grains.  Oats only have a very small amount of gluten are still a slightly contentious issue but in Australia it is deemed safest to avoid them if you do have Coeliac disease.

·            Wheat gluten = gliadin

·            Rye gluten = secalin

·            Barley gluten = hordein

·            Oat gluten = avenin

There are many reasons for avoiding wheat and/or gluten.  I'm not going to go into them in detail in this article but will just mention the most common:

Coeliac Disease - the body creates anti-bodies to gluten and the small intestine becomes damaged.  This needs to be diagnosed with a blood test and small intestine biopsy and is reversible with complete removal gluten.

Non-Coeliac Gluten Sensitivity- the person can experience digestive symptoms as well as other symptoms such as joint inflammation and pain, fibromyalgia, headaches, foggy head, skin rash, anxiety, depression.  There are no anti-bodies made to gluten.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome- digestive symptoms with no clinically measurable cause.  FODMAPs is the first line of treatment and includes eliminating wheat.

Auto-immune conditions- there is growing body of evidence showing that removing gluten from the diet is helpful in reducing symptoms of auto-immune conditions such as Hashimoto's Thyroiditis and Type I DM.

If you have already removed gluten from your diet or are thinking about it, please discuss it with a health practitioner so you feel clear on exactly what you are avoiding and what improvements in symptoms you could expect.  It is also very important to ensure you are eating enough healthy carbohydrates such as starchy vegetables like sweet potato and gluten-free whole grains such as brown rice.  A lot of gluten containing foods are also high in fibre and B vitamins so it's crucial these are replaced with healthy alternatives.

Attached is a general Gluten & Wheat-free Eating Guide to help you but is not designed to replace advice from a Dietitian or other qualified health practitioner.


  • The good news is that most food groups are naturally free of gluten.  Fruit & vegetables are all go!

  • Gluten-free does not necessarily mean healthy...sugar is gluten-free!

  • Buckwheat is not wheat!  It's actually gluten-free.

  • Watch out for soy flour in gluten-free pasta and bread - it's very harsh on the digestive tract.

  • Corn flour and soy flour are often used in GF products but both are often genetically modified unless they state otherwise or are certified organic.

If you have questions about whether trying gluten or wheat free may be appropriate for you please ask me at your next appointment :)

Happy gluten-free munching,

Carla :)



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