By Malu Lambert
Styling & Photography by C&D Heierli
The warm, golden scent of toasted wheat and bubbling yeast. There are few aromas as emotive and comforting as bread baking in the oven. Wheat has long been a staple food for humankind. But, along the way, a few health problems have cropped up too.
That caramel-coloured ciabatta, or fresh pasta served with lashings of fruity olive oil, may look like antipasto to some, but to others, these dishes represent a night of bloating, gas, diarrhoea, constipation, nausea, and even (in extreme cases) vomiting.
Like skinny jeans, military jackets, and small dogs that are carried around inside handbags, wheat allergies, too, seem to have become a trend.
“I’ve seen an increase in patients with this type of allergy,” says Capetonian, Maxine Hill, a biofeedback practitioner (a nutritionist who uses a machine called a Scio to measure energy levels to identify weaknesses and allergies within the body).
“However, this could be due to eating convenience food. So, no, trend isn’t the right word, but wheat allergies have definitely become more prevalent. If you look at the ingredients in ready-made or fast food, you’ll find those types of meals are bulked up with wheat.”
Maxine believes this kind of eating can exacerbate a latent allergy instead of actually causing it. “It’s okay if you eat these kinds of foods once a week. But if individuals are eating junk food three, four times a week, they’re going to have a problem,” she says.
Children who suffer from wheat intolerance are also on the increase, “I see a lot of kids who have Attention Deficit Disorder who also have a wheat allergy, and interestingly, some with autism, too. It could be more common in those with compromised immune systems.”
The more extreme affliction is gluten intolerance. This isn’t the same as a wheat allergy; sufferers of the latter should avoid all wheat-based products, such as white and wholewheat breads, pasta, and confectionery. Gluten is the protein part of grain and those sensitive to it should stay away from all grain-based foods.
“Those with wheat intolerance can also sometimes become intolerant to other foods too,” says Maxine. “Their gut lining becomes compromised and irritated by wheat consumption, and this leads to a new host of food allergies, such as becoming intolerant to gluten and sugar.”
Maxine’s profession has all the hallmarks of a science fiction plot, what with the tech-y sounding name and her quantum energy-reading machine. “It’s really quite simple,” she starts to explain. “The Scio works at a sub-dermal level (through straps connected to your head and limbs) by measuring electrical energy all over your body. It resonates with thousands of nutrients, organs, tissues, toxins and allergens for one hundredth of a second each, and records the degree to which your body reacts.
“Simply put, if your liver has a sluggish response to the energetic waves, I know there’s a problem there.”
Meet Susan Bell*, a recent patient of Maxine. Susan is a 36-year-old woman who has two daughters, the younger of whom is six months old. She was struggling to lose her pregnancy weight, felt bloated, fatigued (even though her baby had started sleeping through the night), and had constant, crippling headaches. She came to see Maxine, who strapped her up to the Scio and detected that Susan had a number of food allergies, the main one being an intolerance to wheat. “So I sent her home with a recommendation for a multi-vitamin and told her to avoid the offending grain,” says Maxine. “I saw her again a month later and she had lost three kilos, but most importantly, the headaches had gone. Treating wheat intolerance is as easy as that. Simply give it up.”
The hard part, of course, is ‘the giving up’. The allure of a toasted cheese sandwich or a warming bowl of pasta after a hard day’s work can surely be too much for even the most stoic of wheat-teetotallers. Luckily, then, there are alternatives.
“If you’re experiencing uncomfortable symptoms, I recommend that you cut out all wheat products for a month,” says Maxine. The body will clean out the digestive tract after this period, and heal itself of the irritation. Then, in the future, you can eat small doses of wheat, infrequently.”
A wheat-free diet needn’t be dull and uninspired. You can still tuck into birthday cake; just make sure to skip the refined flour and use mashed potato or another type of grain flour instead. Alternatively, there’s the oh-so-light flourless chocolate cake, made with egg whites and yolks. This dreamy dessert is as delicious as it’s stylish.
“You can also still eat pasta,” says Maxine. “There are plenty of varieties on the market. There’s pasta made with corn called Pasta d’Oro.
“There is hidden wheat everywhere, though,” she warns. “Look out for dehydrated products and sauces that come in a packet. Ina Paarman’s sauces are a good alternative.”
Your gut may be averse to wheat without realising it. Not all people experience such severe symptoms such as headaches and diarrhoea.
One such person is another patient of Maxine’s, Lauren Edgar*. No matter how often Lauren went to the gym, she could not shed the excess weight around her belly and often felt bloated, too. “I asked her to cut out wheat completely from her diet,” says Maxine. “And within weeks she saw results.”
Removing the golden grain from your diet doesn’t mean you have to ditch all your favourite dishes. Instead, adjust your thinking, and you may even become more creative in the kitchen. White refined flour can easily be replaced: picture buckwheat pancakes, sauces thickened with maize flour, and rice flour dumplings bubbling in a stew. The list is as endless as it’s varied.
And as for that toasted cheese? Just grill it on rye instead.
To find out more about the biofeedback profession and how to treat wheat intolerance, call Maxine Hill at The House of Therapy on 021-556-6822.
*Real names not used.
What to Eat
There’s no need to look with envy at your partner’s dinner; there’s a delicious substitute for most of your wheat-based favourites.
1. Ditch the bowl of pasta and tuck into a fragrant stir-fry of rice noodles.
2. Send the white bread packing and indulge in gourmet rye sarmies.
3. Let them eat cake; you’ve got a moreish milk tart.
4. Dodge the biscuits and dunk instead honeyed oatmeal crunchies.
5. There’s no need not to eat pizza again; just ask for a wheat-free base.
Try these wheat-free Recipes