Forget gluten: There’s another reason to skip wheat

A lot of people avoid wheat because it contains gluten, a protein that can be difficult for the body to digest. Not a problem if you don’t have celiac disease, right?

Wrong. Gluten causes non-celiac gluten sensitivity — though some doctors deny it’s a real health issue.

And some people believe gluten contributes to other diseases too. In fact, it’s linked to more than 55 different diseases in scientific studies.

But what if you’ve been tested and your doctor says your painful symptoms have nothing to do with wheat, even though any time you consume it you suffer? And no one is providing you any answers or any help?

Well, you may finally have an answer… because it turns out gluten isn’t the only protein in wheat that takes a toll on your health.

A group of proteins known as amylase-trypsin inhibitors (ATIs) may be just as bad as the infamous gluten when it comes to triggering inflammation, digestive problems and chronic health conditions.

A recent study conducted by researchers in Germany found that the ATIs in wheat cause inflammation in the gut, lymph nodes, kidneys, spleen and brain. But that’s not all…

Researchers also believe ATIs contribute to the development of non-celiac gluten sensitivity and can worsen the symptoms of diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, asthma, lupus, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and inflammatory bowel disease.

Now, ATIs only make up about four percent of the proteins found in wheat. But even in small doses, they cause a powerful inflammation response in your body. In fact, researchers are beginning to believe that non-celiac gluten sensitivity isn’t caused by gluten at all, but only by ATIs:

“The type of gut inflammation seen in non-celiac gluten sensitivity differs from that caused by celiac disease, and we do not believe that this is triggered by gluten proteins. Instead, we demonstrated that ATIs from wheat, that are also contaminating commercial gluten, activate specific types of immune cells in the gut and other tissues, thereby potentially worsening the symptoms of pre-existing inflammatory illnesses,” said lead researcher Professor Detlef Schuppan from the Johannes Gutenberg University in Germany.

Since gluten and ATIs are both found in wheat, if you skip bread, pasta and other wheat-filled foods you are closing the door to unwelcome inflammation in your body… and preventing the health problems that come with it.

Of course, you don’t have to stop at giving up wheat. Some people, like those on a Paleo diet, choose to avoid grains altogether and say they’ve never felt better. But if you’re not ready to go grain-free quite yet, there are some healthier grains you can include in your diet in place of wheat:

  • Quinoa is a complete protein that contains a high dose of calcium and the nine essential amino acids.
  • Buckwheat is high in fiber, antioxidants and contains all the essential amino acids too. And don’t worry. Despite its name, it’s not related to wheat.
  • Amaranth is high in protein and contains lysine, an amino acid that’s not found in wheat. The latest research also suggests that amaranth is high in antioxidants, which may explain why it can improve heart health.
  • Millet is an ancient seed that’s high in antioxidants, magnesium and is easier to digest than most grains.
  • Wild rice isn’t actually rice at all. It’s a water-grass seed that’s full of protein, fiber, B-vitamins, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese and zinc.
  • Sorghum is an ancient African cereal grain that contains more antioxidants than blueberries and pomegranates. It also contains protein, fiber and minerals like potassium, calcium and iron.
  • Kaniwa is an up-and-coming super grain that’s related to quinoa. Like quinoa, it’s a complete protein that contains all the essential amino acids.
  1. “Celiac Disease Symptoms.” The Celiac Disease Foundation. Retrieved October 17, 2016.
  2. “10 Signs You’re Gluten Intolerant.” Mind Body Green. Retrieved October 17, 2016.
  3. “New study links protein in wheat to the inflammation of chronic health conditions.” Medical Xpress. Retrieved October 17, 2016.
  4. “Instead of Wheat, Try These 7 Gluten-Free Grains.” Renegade Health. Retrieved October 17, 2016.
  5. “The 6 Best Alternative Grains.” The Global Healing Center. Retrieved October 17, 2016.
Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine,, and