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Fall, 2001

Wheat-Free Kids
by Suzy Spring

Every Monday I search my cupboard for something to contribute to the snack table at our playgroup. Often I realize I've brought something one little boy won't be able to enjoy because he cannot tolerate wheat. Children who react to wheat may have a wheat allergy, intolerance to wheat or an inability to break down gluten (a protein found in some grains) which is known as Celiac disease. This column will focus on wheat allergy and intolerance.

Problems with Wheat

Wheat allergy is an inappropriate response by the immune system to some proteins in wheat. Symptoms vary, but may include skin rashes, respiratory problems, stomach problems, vomiting, and in rare cases, anaphylactic shock. The symptoms will often occur within two hours, but they are sometimes delayed.

A child who has wheat intolerance has a slightly different problem. His or her body is unable to digest and process the wheat properly, leading to stomach and bowel irritation, headaches, fatigue, irritability or restlessness. If you suspect your child has a problem with wheat or any other food, consult with your naturopath or doctor for appropriate testing.

More to Eat than Wheat

Fortunately for those families affected by wheat allergy or intolerance, most health food stores carry a number of products to make snack and mealtimes a little easier. There are many ready-made foods available such as wheat and/or gluten-free bars, cookies, crackers, sweets and breads.

Preparing most of your own food reduces the risk of food mishaps; now is the time to try some of the many alternatives to wheat flour. Corn and rice flour (both gluten-free) are called for in many wheat-free recipes. A good rule of thumb for rice flour is to substitute 3/4 cup rice flour plus 3 tablespoons arrowroot powder for each cup of wheat flour. other gluten-free ingredients include amaranth, buckwheat, flaxseeds, Jerusalem artichoke, millet, potato flour, soy and quinoa. For those who can tolerate gluten but not wheat, oats, barley, rye and spelt are nutritious options.

My friend, whose little boy I mentioned earlier, says that eating wheat-free has become an interesting challenge for her family. They feel they've discovered an older way of eating, relying more on rice and other simple foods. If your family include a wheat-free child, find out everything you can about wheat allergy and intolerance and then let the fun begin as you discover new and exciting foods together!

Sources:
Smart Medicine for a Healthier Child by Zand et al, Avery: 1994
Prescription for Nutritional Healing by J. Balch, Avery: 1997;
"The Wheat-Free Page"
"Is it really wheat allergy?" by the Allergy, Sensitivity and Environmental health Association

This article was reprinted with permission from
Rainbow Natural Foods.

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