Updated 24 May 2017

Grain allergies

Suffering from arthritis or joint pain? Does your child show allergic symptoms? Perhaps grain allergies could be the culprit.

People who have suffered from physical disabilities and hayfever-type allergies are starting to examine and change their diets, with remarkable results.

Carolyn Bergh, an avid hiker and outdoors enthusiast, found in her early thirties that painful joints and other symptoms resembling arthritis were affecting the quality of her life. Taking medication for the condition afforded no relief, and after a few years of feeling steadily worse, she decided to look at her diet instead.

Key allergy sources
Although healthy eating had always been a way of life, some research highlighted the fact that many of the foods she ate were actually considered as key allergy sources.

Common foods like wheat, eggs, rice and milk were cut out, and within a few weeks the joint pain had reduced to point of being hardly noticeable. Her energy levels had also soared. Her meals started including primarily fresh fruit and raw vegetables, nuts as well as wheat and rice alternatives (like quinoa, rye and kamut).

What are these grains?
These grains have ancient origins and are gaining popularity as they become widely available and often offered in restaurants. Kamut is also known as Egyptian wheat and is nutritionally superior to wheat. It is tolerated by people who have a bad reaction to wheat. As it does contain gluten, people with coeliac disease (gluten intolerance) should avoid it.

Quinoa is an ancient Incan crop and has a unique flavour and high protein content. It is not a true grain and is more closely related to vegetables like beets and spinach. It is rich in vitamins and provides a complete protein that contains eight amino acids.

More grain substitutes
Other grain substitutes are amaranth and spelt. Amaranth is native to South America. It is also high in protein and contains eight amino acids. It is a hardy grain, drought-resistant and requires significantly less pesticides and fertilizer. It is normally grown without irrigation.

Spelt, like kamut, was found in the ancient Egyptian tombs and also contains eight amino acids. It is high in complex carbohydrates and easy to digest. As more people become aware of grain alternatives, their availability will rise with demand. They will be used instead of polished grain (where so many of the health benefits are lost).


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Allergy expert

Dr Morris is the Principal Allergist at the Cape Town and Johannesburg Allergy Clinics with postgraduate diplomas in Allergology, Dermatology, Paediatrics and Family Medicine dealing with both adult and childhood allergies.

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