Patient Q: What is the difference between wheat and gluten? Should I be avoiding both?

Dr. Lewis A: Wheat is a grain whereas gluten is a protein that is found in wheat as well as other grains like barely, rye, oats, spelt and kamut.  Wheat is by far the most popular and most processed grain consumed in the North American diet and is present in most breads, crackers, cereals, baked goods etc… Because of it’s over consumption as well as genetic modifications many people are likely to develop a sensitivity to it. The symptoms of this sensitivity are varied but common complaints are headaches, weight gain, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, frequent cold and flu, eczema, and depression.

Other grains like amaranth, millet, quinoa, rice, buckwheat, corn do not contain gluten and are considered to be both wheat free and gluten free.

Unless there is an obvious gluten sensitivity that is identified through the assessment of symptoms patterns or shown in diagnostic testing, I typically recommend that a person first start on a wheat free program. If symptoms do not improve then I will ask them to move towards a gluten free diet. In both cases I suggest the elimination be maintained 2-3 months to allow for desensitization.

Even in the absence of any symptoms that may indicate sensitivities I highly recommend that you rotate your consumption of the different grains so that you prevent the symptoms associated with an overexposure to the same foods.