Being Wheat Intolerant is much more common than previously thought.

Do you have congested sinuses, anxiety, weight or skin problems? Could it be due to the flour that you eat every day?  If you have not recognized wheat as a problem, it may be because you are wheat intolerant but symptoms take as long as 2-3 days to appear. How often do you go 3 days without having bread, cereal or pasta?

New research in the Archives of Internal Medicine confirms what every Naturopath already knows: wheat intolerance or sensitivity is VERY common (3).  The study surveyed 13,000 participants, and found wheat sensitivity to affect 1/22 people with a family history of coeliac disease and 1/133 of those with no family history. In the US, this means 1.5 million cases of undiagnosed wheat or gluten sensitivity.  (Many naturopaths and holistic doctors estimate as many as 1 in 10 people are wheat sensitive.)


Conditions caused by wheat intolerance:


  • Digestive problems – typically bloating, wind and diarrhea.

    Wheat skin reaction

    Itchy hives are a common reaction to wheat

  • Skin problems – Rosacea, acne, eczema, dry skin, itchy hives
  • Allergies – sinus, hayfever, recurrent infection
  • Hormonal problems – Insulin resistance (Syndrome X), underactive thyroid, PMS (4)
  • Weight gain
  • Autoimmune conditions – Juvenile diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, hashimoto’s thyroiditis (5)
  • Liver disease (6)
  • Mental disturbance – anxiety, insomnia and schizophrenia (7) Wheat peptides can mimic neurotransmitters making it psychoactive.
  • Infertility and miscarriage (8)

WHY is Wheat Bad?

  • Grains contain phytates and lectins, which interfere with nutrient absorption. When they were introduced to the human diet 8000 years ago, they caused a decrease in stature by six inches, and an increase in dental caries and degenerative disease. (9)
  • Wheat proteins such as gluten mimic human proteins, and interfere with immunity and the nervous system.
  • Modern grain is heavily sprayed with pesticide during storage, and also contains mould toxins. As well glysophate is being used just before harvest to dessicate the crop and increase yield. Glyphosate is now being linked with the destruction of the gut microbiome, resulting in development of increased intestinal permeability, gut flora, and gluten intolerance.


  • Commercial breads contain additives and preservatives, which may be the real culprits in many cases of sensitivity. An Australian study (2) identified the bread preservative calcium proprionate (additive 282) as a cause of irritability, restlessness, bed-wetting and other symptoms in children.

Diagnosing Wheat Intolerant:

1) Wheat Intolerance Quiz – try the quiz and add in the number for a yes answer to the right.

Family history of coeliac disease 20
Cravings for bread/pasta and other flour products 10
Depression and anxiety 5
Panic attacks 5
Autoimmune disorder 15
Family history of schizophrenia 20
Insulin Resistance or family history of adult-onset diabetes 20
Weight gain 10
Regular Digestive Bloating 15
Chronic diarrhea 10
Acne 5
Fluid retention 5
Chronic or recurring sinusitis 5
Chronic runny nose 10
History of night terrors as a child 20
Arthritis 5
Rosacea 10
Eczema 5
Headaches 5
Miscarriage 5
Blood type O 10
Flatulence and wind 10

Total your numbers.


Score: 0-50       – Normal

Score: 50-100   – Wheat Sensitivity likely

Score: 100+      – Wheat Sensitivity VERY likely

2) Lab Tests for Wheat Intolerance

Get your Naturopath or GP to request the following pathology:  gluten antibodies, gliadin antibodies

Caution: A normal blood test does not guarantee that there is no wheat sensitivity.

3) Pulse test

Take your pulse before and 20 minutes after eating wheat.  If it increases by more than 10 beats per minute, you may have a sensitivity.

4) Elimination

The VERY best way to diagnose wheat intolerance is to avoid it for 3 weeks, reintroduce it back in your diet and see how you feel!  If your symptoms return then you are most likely to be sensitive to wheat.

Most people can get good results with 90% avoidance.

Treatment for Wheat Intolerance:

  1. The obvious treatment is to avoid wheat:
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  • Avoid – “flour”, bread, pasta, couscous, cereals, muesli bars, biscuits, crackers
  • Alternatives  (with some gluten) – spelt flour breads and pastas, rye bread, ryvita, oats
  • Alternatives (with no gluten) – rice, rice noodles, rice pasta, quinoa, millet,buckwheat, soba, arrowroot, kudzu.
  • Try 14 days without wheat to change internal gut conditions

Caution: many gluten-free products contain corn or maize, which is also a common food sensitivity        (especially for people with Blood Type B)

  1. Improve Digestion of wheat: Probiotic supplement, Digestive enzymes and Digestive herbs such as goldenseal and dandelion root.
  2. Phenolic wheat – homoeopathic preparation of wheat to de-sensitize the immune system.

CHEATING: 2 yummy ways to do less harm if you “go off” your wheat-free diet

SPELT  – “The good flour”

Go back to the Middle Ages with spelt, a sweet-tasting grain that is actually the ancestor of wheat.  Spelt bread and pastas are available from most natural food stores and organic delivery services.

Wraps or lavash  – “The café cheat”


If you’re in a café and cannot get salad or rice, then choose the lesser of evils by choosing the lesser of bread: choose flatbread instead of bread. Spelt wraps are easily available.


  1. Washington July 12, 2004.
  2. Dengate S, Ruben A “Controlled trial of cumulative behavioural effects of a common bread preservative.” J Paediatr Child Health 2002, 38(4) p373-
  3. Fasano et al. “Prevalence of Celiac Disease in At-Risk and Not-At-Risk Groups in the United States: A Large Multicenter Study” Archives of Internal Medicine 2003; 163(3): 286 – 292.
  4. Yevdokimova, N. and Andrej Yefimov. Effects of wheat germ agglutin and concanavalin A on the accumulation of glycosaminoglycans in pericelluar matrix of human dermal fibroblasts. A comparison with insulin. Acta Biochemica Polonica 2001, 48(2):563-572
  5. Shomon, Mary. Living Well with Autoimmune Disease. 2002. Harper Collins.
  6. Ratziu V et al. “Discussion on celiac disease in patients with severe liver disease: gluten-free diet may reverse hepatic failure.” Gastroenterology 2002, 123(6) p2158-9
  7. Eaton, W. et al. “Coeliac disease and schizophrenia: population based case control study with linkage of Danish national registers” British Medical Journal. 2004;328:438-439
  8. Gasbarrini A et al. “Recurrent spontaneous abortion and intrauterine fetal growth retardation as symptoms of coeliac disease.” Lancet  2000, 356(9227) p399-400
  9. Schmid, Ronald. Native Nutrition. 1997. Healing Arts Press.
Adapted from an article by Lara Grinevitch BSc, ND