A client sent me photos of their tummy the other day, to prove how bloated they were. That was a first, but bloating is the symptom I hear clients complain about most. I encourage all clients to consult their doctor to rule out other causes but I usually suggest a low fermentable carbohydrate (low FODMAP) diet. Many find they can manage their symptoms much better. One of the key parts of the diet is to cut down on the fructans wheat and rye in their diet. So here’s a quick checklist to help you trial this. Two weeks should be long enough to see if you feel different.
Wheat contains gluten but is not the only gluten grain. Rye, spelt, barley, bulgar wheat also contain gluten. Wheat-free isn’t the same as going gluten-free. Corn (and polenta), rice, potato, arrowroot, quinoa, buckwheat (yes really) are alternative wheat-free carbohydrates that are also free of gluten. Oats are wheat-free but not gluten-free (unless labelled because they are guaranteed free of gluten cross-contamination). Cous cous and semolina are all made from wheat. If in doubt if you choose gluten-free you are also choosing wheat-free (this is a good rule of thumb unless you have a rare wheat allergy).
1. Breakfast cereals
There are many wheat-free cereals. Oatibix is an easy swap for Weetabix, watch out as it does soak up milk quickly. As it gets colder put porridge on the breakfast menu. If you want the speed of an instant porridge go for Oat So Simple plain as the flavoured versions are very sweet. Rice Krispies and Cornflakes are naturally wheat-free (although not gluten-free due to the barley sweetener). Watch out for granola and muesli as they often contain wheat flakes as well as other grains. Lizi’s granola is an oat only granola that is lower in sugar. Doves Farm make several gluten-free cereals, two are very similar to Special K and Bran flakes but free of wheat.
Cut down on bread or cut it out if you can. Start by limiting yourself to having bread at only one meal per day. Although they contain wheat clients tell me they tolerate wraps better, the same may go for pitta bread. If you bake bread try sourdough bread as the bread is partially fermented some people tolerate this better. Spelt bread is another option for home bakers. Although a gluten grain spelt is low in fructans so low in fermentable carbohydrates. Some health food shops sell 100% spelt bread but always check labels or ask the baker as most spelt breads in the shops (including supermarket bakeries) are a combination of spelt with another (usually wheat) flour.
Bread as a sandwich is what people miss most. The gluten-free breads are better toasted than fresh. While cutting down have an open sandwich so you have the same amount of filling in your sandwich but just one piece of bread. Or choose a wheat-free cracker like oatcakes, rice cakes, corn cakes or gluten-free crackers. I like to use baby little gem lettuce leaves to have as a sandwich bread substitute. I use the same fillings like tuna mayonnaise but scoop it into a lettuce leaf. Jacket potatoes, salads and soups are good lunch alternatives to a sandwich.
4. Pasta and Pizza
Free-from pasta is quite easy to swap, as it doesn’t taste that different when coated in sauce. Just watch when cooking as most are made from corn and rice and they cook quickly and stick together if you don’t watch over them with a fork. I have not yet seen fresh ‘free-from’ pasta sold in supermarkets and even gnocchi (which is predominantly potato) has wheat flour in it. But gnocchi is an option while you are cutting down. There are pizza bases available that are gluten-free and Pizza Express sell one in their restaurants. Like bread it tastes quite different when made without wheat. But if you load it with tasty toppings you might get distracted from the base!
5. Eating Out
When eating out ask not to have the bread basket temptation and tell the server that you are wheat-free and let them help you. When choosing an Indian or Chinese takeaway go for rice not naan with Indian and rice or rice noodles (sometimes called glass noodles and are white) with Chinese dishes.
If you need to thicken a sauce when cooking at home then both arrowroot and cornflour are wheat-free and work well. Sauces and gravies are almost always wheat based when eating out so ask the restaurant. Ask when ordering a take-away if the sauce contains wheat (it usually does), this is most likely with Chinese as Indian dishes often use onions in thick sauces. However onions are a fermentable carbohydrate and can cause bloating. Some people are very sensitive to the small amounts in gravy but others can tolerate a modest portion.
Biscuits, cakes and pastry are all predominantly wheat-based. Supermarket free-from section have wheat-free (usually gluten-free as well) versions using different flours. Look out for chocolate confectionery that may have wheat from wafers or biscuit. I try to discourage clients from these as they are still high in sugar but if you have them regularly cut down and switch to a ‘free-from’ recipe.
Do see your GP if you continue to feel bloated just to rule out other causes. Also there may be other fermentable carbohydrates like milk products, certain vegetables, pulses, and some fruit in large quantities that may be contributing.