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Is spelt safe for a wheat-free or gluten-free diet?

Posted on March 11th, 2009 by Alison Read 23 Comments - Add Your Own »

speltMany people believe that if you can’t eat wheat, then it is okay to eat spelt. It is said that spelt is easier on the digestive system than wheat and so it has been called a “wheat alternative.” Spelt products, including bread, were even labeled as “wheat-free” prior to 2006. What happened in 2006? That’s when the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) took effect and food manufacturers were required to list the top 8 allergens on their labels. As a result, products using spelt and kamut had to put “wheat” on the label. Why? Because they are wheat!

Spelt is an ancient grain that is a sub-species of wheat. People who are allergic to wheat probably cannot tolerate spelt and should avoid it, although some wheat-intolerant people say that they are able to tolerate spelt.

People with celiac disease or gluten intolerance should NOT eat spelt (also known as “farro” or “dinkel”) because it contains GLUTEN. Same goes for Kamut, triticale, emmer and einkorn — all of these are cereal grains that have been marketed as “wheat alternatives.” All are in the wheat genus, however, and have biological names starting with “triticum,” the Latin word for wheat.

So, bottom line, if wheat is off-limits for you, then it’s best to stay away from spelt!

Read more about the gluten-free diet.

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  1. Ha! I knew it! When people hear I’m gluten intolerant they always say “Oh, well have you tried spelt? It’s not wheat.” And I always give them a funny look and say “Uhhhh….” because my doctor wrote spelt down as one of the wheat grains to avoid. So now I know and I can say “No, of course not you fool! Spelt is wheat!” Haha thanks! 😛

  2. Thank you for reminding people of this. I am still quite distressed by a radio program I heard last week in Humboldt County, CA, on a station from Ashland, OR. The program featured a “nutritionist” who apparently works as a nutritional counselor in the Ashland area. During the interview/show, she claimed she has “celiac’s disease” [sic] and that people with “celiac’s” can’t eat “hybridized” wheat, but “non-hybridized” forms of wheat are fine, such as spelt and kamut. She also cited rye bread as an acceptable alternative for celiacs! I am distressed that not only did they give this ignorant woman air time, but that she apparently makes her living counseling people with special dietary needs. It’s so depressing that even with all the info, so much dangerous misinformation is still being given to people. Thank you, Alison, for being such a consistent voice of reason.

  3. I am horribly gluten intolerant and get VERY sick when I eat any wheat, organic or not. I CAN tolerate Spelt and Kamut and have tried it with great success. Apparently, I am just intolerant to man’s hybridization of wheat, not the wheat that hasn’t been fooled around with. That woman on the radio was not ignorant. It is worth a try for anyone. I would much rather be eating homemade spelt bread than rice muffins anyday!

  4. I am intolerant to spelt, would that mean I should avoid wheat?

  5. Look if you feel you have a gluten intolerance, get a test of this, science has had a test for if for some time.
    If it is a dietary choice Good for you! but avoiding gluten will change your life because it is in so many things but does NOT cause any problemn for THE majority of people and Science has not found a cause for the myriade of probblems blamed on this….So worry about what comes out of your mouths that cause you and your children problems and less on what goes in!

  6. I’ve had ‘the test’ (blood test) for wheat sensitivity, however I have read that this test will come up negative if you have avoided gluten and wheat products (there is nothing for you to react to)…I came out negative. I am not celiac, I don’t KNOW if I have an allergy but what I DO know is that I react SEVERELY and negatively to pasta and thus have had a ridiculous fear of noodles (unless they are rice noodles…just fell in love with vietnamese!!!!). I don’t eat white bread and eat spelt which I seem to be fine with. Trial and error I think is the best way, we are all individuals and we should ALL be listening to what our body’s tell us (and they do talk to us on a daily basis). Something may work for one person and not another…we are ALL individuals, treat yourself that way 🙂

  7. I react to wheat. I am not gluten intolerant but have an allergy to wheat. I have been eating homemade spelt bread with no problem.

  8. Spelt is not wheat.

    BUT spelt does have gluten, like wheat, along with rye, kamut, and some say oats. If you are allergic to gluten, don’t eat any of these!

    I think the FALCPA was greatly misguided to include spelt as wheat. I have a dangerous allergy to wheat (not gluten) and can eat spelt fine. Now, all the spelt products I eat are labeled, “contains: wheat.” I am worried that some manufacturers will put wheat in their spelt products since their labels say it has wheat anyway. This could be disastrous for people like me.

    Perhaps, they could have another warning for gluten specifically, differentiating wheat from gluten. I know they were trying to protect those with a gluten allergy from eating the lesser-known grain, spelt, but it’s counter-productive to try to inform people with misinformation. The best thing they can do is provide the most specific, comprehensive information so people of all allergies can know what they are eating!

  9. We need to be careful when we think about allergies. 40 years ago allergies were unheard of. We have eaten Speltand Emmer forabout the last 12,000years, Einkorn for the last 7,500 years, and Kamut or Khorasan for 3,000 years. It is impossible for the human to have evolved in 40 years to be unable to eat foods he has eaten for such a long period of time.

    There has to be a reason and it isn’t that we just cannot eat it. Both our foods and environment are now full of chemicals, and it is clearly these rather than the original primary foods that are the culprits. By avoiding certain foods you may be avoiding the chemicals normally associated with them UNLESS:

    We are now pretty sure certain GM crops are actually causing allergies, and the Bt GM crops, engineered to resist pests, are in focus. Every part of the plants become a pesticid, so when animals eat them – or if we eat them or the animals that ate them – we seem to absorb the pesticide. I am sorry that this isn’t nice, but it seems to be doing to us exactly what it does to the pest – it seems to be perforating our intestines. This allows undigested food particles to enter our blood stream – which make us allergic to whatever leaked in!

    By going organic for a period and then introducing bread in the form of a sourdough spelt to start off with – nearly all allergic people seem to be fine. Modern bread bought from a shop can contain I think it is more than 40 chemicals, while sourdough is the flour, a natural yeast and a pinch of salt. Not a chemical in sight except from your water! My house runs totally on rainwater so the only chemicals I have are those dissolved in the rain from the atmosphere.

    Frieds who have reported being allergic to wheat or gluten have all found these breads are graet and safe.


    It is also too simplistic to say all these are wheat simply because they are ‘triticums’ which is the botanical family, as modern wheats are often quite different from the original varieties in many ways. For example the Einkorn has just 14 chromasones in its gluten while modern wheat has 42!

    Prepared foods we buy have large numbers of additives in them

  10. Read Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis.

  11. I have been staying away from wheat because I have endometriosis that caused me horrible pain. I read that getting off wheat could helped. I tried it and I am soooo much better. I don´t know yet if I can eat spelt, but some think that wheat makes endometriosis worse because of genetic modification of the 70s which has given it several genes that mimic estrogen. This might not have been done to spelt. I would say it might depend on why a person cannot tolerate wheat as to whether or not they can tolerate spelt.

  12. Hello I have a question regarding SPROUTED FLOURS, do they have the same effect on the body as just wheat etc.. or could they be seen as an alternative to wheat free diets? thank you .

  13. I have endometriosis and was advised to quit eating wheat. I did and later on It showed in my colonoscopy test that I am gluten intolerant and my intestines had been damaged from gluten and lactose intolerant too. I did stop eating wheat bread and felt better but then lately I decided to try spelt flour bread made it myself at home , without yeast. I reacted very badly to it as if I had eaten wheat bread. I am so disappointed I had some hope to eat spelt bread , but I could not.

  14. If all else fails, read initial post! Spelt is wheat and it has gluten. If you have been tested as allergic to either, whether you have symptoms or not, don’t eat it! There are many healthy alternatives.

  15. I grow spelt, and process spelt flour and make spelt pancake and waffel mix and there is a big differns between spelt waffle and wheat waffle. spelt waffle are lite and crisp i can eat 6 waffle and feel good. wheat is heavy and moist and not as good.spelt is a grain to nobody fooled around with. it is a ancient grain.all my flour is stone ground i make buns bread noodels in my mix. sea salt. cane sugar.aluminum free baking powder.

  16. Just found out I am allergic to spelt, but not wheat! What should I be looking out for in my breads to avoid?

  17. You are good if you can eat wheat, spelt has less gluten then wheat.many people have issues with wheat flour because of the high gluten and g m o. spelt has no g m o.

  18. My mother has been allergic to wheat for 30 years, it causes severe headaches and swollen tongue. She can eat spelt fine and the in moderation as it has a cumulative effect in small amounts. Oddly, she can’t tolerate rice flour, even though whole rice is fine. It causes stomach issues. With wheat allergies, I’d suggest trying others grains in small amounts to see if it’s a problem, or speak to an allergist about running tests for other grain allergies.

  19. Omg I had some spelt the last couple of day an I’ve been wondering why I feel sick. I didn’t know it had gluten in it. I’m all constipated and stuff. Smh. Well now I know. I follow the Dr Sebi food guide but I guess it’s not for gluten I tolorence

  20. The Gastroenterologist said: no milk, no wheat.
    I asked: lactose-intolerant? gluten-free?
    He said I can have some aged cheese, like parmesan and some others. I said, I found some online. I asked: can I have the enzyme-added? He suggested, no. It turns out I have more than the mild allergies I thought.
    Wheat? Gluten-free? He was clear: not gluten-free, but wheat.
    Of course, everything I read online didn’t make that distinction.
    He did say, now, I have an irritable bowel. He added, he wants a blood test for celeriac disease. I suppose he would want to rule that out.
    What I thought was a mild milk and wheat allergy, the only symptom was bloating, I suppose, is referred to as “wheat belly”. He said, the bowel is aggravated and irritated, so apparently, the years of milk and wheat are real harm.
    My question: wheat? are there wheat-intolerance not related to gluten-intolerance?

  21. Connie–Yes. wheat intolerance/sensitivity is different than celiac/gluten intolerance. They do an IgE or IgG test to determine if you are intolerant to wheat. My daughter has this, but is not celiac. So she can’t eat anything with wheat in it, but can have non-wheat items that contain gluten.

  22. I have just found out I am spelt intolerant does that mean I can eat gluten & wheat?

  23. Hi Charlotte,
    What kind of testing did you do? I have never heard of someone being intolerant to just spelt.

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