> Is Spelt Gluten Free?
Is Spelt Gluten Free?
Spelt (shown above in whole berry form) is sometimes used to create ‘wheat free’ baked goods
Is spelt gluten free? is a common question asked by people who are eliminating wheat and/or gluten from their diet. A growing number of food manufacturers and bakeries are using spelt flour in baked goods, labeling the products ‘wheat free’ and thus good for wheat intolerance. Spelt is also called a health food because it has a higher protein content than wheat.
Some people say that their body handles spelt well so it’s a good wheat substitute. They believe that they have ‘wheat allergy’ otherwise known as ‘wheat intolerance’ but no issues with gluten overall.
Yes, spelt contains gluten *, the problematic related proteins found in wheat, rye, barley, triticale and kamut that people who are sensitive must avoid.
Spelt is actually a relative of wheat. It contains less gluten than wheat, but definitely enough to be a problem for people who are gluten intolerant.
The gluten content of spelt is one of the reasons why it’s used as a wheat alternative. Gluten in wheat is responsible for producing high rising bread (this is why professional bakers will sometimes add ‘vital wheat gluten’ to bread dough as an enhancement). Spelt has enough gluten in it to produce baked goods that are similar to wheat based ones.
Spelt bread is very similar to wheat bread
Why are some people who have wheat intolerance fine with spelt?
Allergies and intolerances are usually to the protein components in food, but no food has just one kind of protein in it. Therefore, wheat and spelt and other ‘gluten’ grains aren’t only composed of the proteins that are referred to as gluten. Someone who has wheat intolerance might not react to spelt because they are reacting to one of the other proteins in wheat.
However, if they know that they react to wheat then there’s good reason to be VERY cautious about spelt. They may, in fact, be reacting to gluten, just not as visibly or obviously because there is less gluten in spelt than in wheat.
What are the possible dangers of eating spelt?
The damage that the problematic proteins referred to as ‘gluten’ cause is very serious and can happen at a microscopic level. Your body won’t have a chance to heal unless you stop consuming ALL gluten for a long period of time and stay off it for good. It is not uncommon for gluten intolerant people to be experiencing damage that can’t be readily felt or seen in obvious ways but is adding up over time and contributing to autoimmune disorders and other ailments. Many people don’t realise that gluten issues don’t always manifest in Celiac disease and the ‘gluten rash’ otherwise known as dermatitis herpetiformis because most doctors aren’t up to date on this either.
We can’t know 100% what’s going on at all times inside our bodies and deep within our cells. I speak from experience and observation because I’ve misdiagnosed myself many times, as many people have, based on symptoms that I associated with things that I knew or believed at the time or what I ‘sensed’. I didn’t know for sure that I had issues with gluten until I was in my 30s. Finally with the help of a support group, I started to wonder if my issues were due to gluten. Eventually I was properly tested by Enterolab thanks to the urging of several caring people who were highly educated about gluten issues. A big thank you to them. This has made a difference for me.
So take care of yourself and listen to your body, but open yourself up to the fact that you may have a problem with gluten even if you feel that you are not reacting to spelt compared to wheat. Consider being tested for gluten intolerance at a respected lab like Enterolab no matter what any other test has told you (yes, the standard blood test for Celiac is not good enough to diagnose problems. Please read Gluten Intolerance Testing: 6 Problems with the Standard Tests and 2 Solutions). Even with careful testing you may not know all of the subtleties of what is causing what, but it’s a solid start. If you can’t afford testing, going on a 100% gluten free diet for at least 1 month, preferably longer, may tell you a lot more than any test can.
There are MANY delicious substitutes for gluten grains. You don’t need to eat spelt to enjoy a quality wheat free baked good. You can find great gluten free foods and ingredients at Amazon <– there is some fun stuff to play with if you click on that link – it opens a post I wrote about Amazon. Gluten Free Mall is also a good resource.
And if you love to bake, investing in a good grain mill like the one below to quickly create gluten free flour and flour mixes is a smart thing to do. It will save you money in the long run and you’ll have the freshest ingredients to work with.
See my post on the best grain mill
* in the past, the term ‘gluten’ was used for the protein portion of any grain, including rice, so if you see ‘rice gluten’ or ‘corn gluten’ listed on a package or in an old recipe book, it usually is referring to the protein in corn or rice, not the same class of proteins found in wheat, spelt, kamut, rye, barley and triticale that are damaging for many people. Why? Using the term ‘gluten’ to describe the proteins that sensitive people, like Celiacs, react to is a fairly recent thing.