A new study found just what all people who have celiac disease or who are gluten intolerant have been waiting for: a safe form of wheat. If you have either of these conditions you know that eating even small amounts of wheat, rye, or barley like the wheat in soy sauce can cause uncomfortable symptoms, including abdominal pain and diarrhea. This is because you can’t digest its gluten.
In the case of celiacs, who have an autoimmune disease, eating gluten destroys the little hair-like villi in the small intestines. This leads to nutrient depletion. Without these villi, your body can’t absorb vitamins and minerals through the intestinal walls.
It’s difficult to live in a wheat-filled world and not eat so many foods and seasonings. At first glance, this study appears full of promise for celiacs, as well as those who are gluten intolerant.
This two-month study followed a group of healthy celiacs. All of them had been on a strict gluten-free diet. The researchers gave some of them baked goods made with fermented (hydrolyzed) wheat flour.
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Half of these people ate baked foods made mostly from hydrolyzed flour, while others ate baked foods that were 100% percent hydrolyzed wheat. Several celiacs ate natural flour baked goods and had to drop out of the study due to symptoms.
The people who ate mostly hydrolyzed wheat had no symptoms. However, their villi completely disappeared! The wheat was harming them and they didn’t realize it. Those who ate the baked products with 100% hydrolyzed wheat had no symptoms and no damage to their villi.
It would appear, then, that hydrolyzed wheat products are safe, and if they were in your local grocery or health food store you might be looking to have some for dinner. If you find it, and you’re not a celiac, you may want to try them. But I suggest you try them cautiously. If you have celiac disease or suspect you do, it's too early to include hydrolyzed wheat in your diet. Here’s why:
The study participants were age 12 to 23. We don’t know the effect of these hydrolyzed products on older people whose health is not as robust as a teenager.
Only two out of the 16 participants ate partially hydrolyzed wheat. Five others ate 100% hydrolyzed products. This isn’t a small study; it’s a tiny study. And it didn’t address people with gluten-intolerance whose villi are intact, or those who are not yet diagnosed with celiac disease.
However, this product does sound exciting. I’m glad people are trying to find ways for celiacs to eat baked goods. But we need more information. Hopefully this study will encourage further research. And you can be sure I’ll have more on this form of wheat as more information becomes available.
Your voice of reason in Women's Health,
Dr. Janet Zand
American Gastroenterological Association (2011, January 19). Celiac patients can eat hydrolyzed wheat flour, study finds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 20, 2011, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110119120406.htm.