Keen on kamut: handling food allergies

Are food allergy problems keeping you or a loved one sick? Alternative grains may help make the difference.

by Shelley Frances Deegan
hen I was diagnosed by a kinesiologist 3 years ago with allergies to wheat, gluten, dairy, yeast and sugar, I thought my days of eating anything but dry salad were over. I also was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, which is why I was always tired and craved sugar, caffeine and many other non-nourishing foods and beverages. I was 25 pounds overweight and my body hurt all the time. I left the kinesiologists office with my vitamins and hope for better health. It was in my hands - no one could get me better but me.
All I had to go on when I left the kinesiologists office was the fact that there are 26 grains other than wheat. My next stop was the health food store where I was a babe in the woods - it was very foreign to me. I had been shopping at the regular grocery store all my life and I needed help. The staff at the health food stores were pleasant, but they either didn't have the time or didn't have the knowledge to show me the things I would need.
But this didn't stop me: I was determined to learn more about the alternative products by buying them and cooking with them.

Support system

I knew nothing about alternative grains like kamut, amaranth, quinoa or rice flour. I did know that every time I ate something like sugar, cheese or coffee I paid for it with abdominal cramping, stomach pain and bloating, bad breath, bad skin, exhaustion and pain. These are symptoms many people live with everyday. I had been one of them.
Since there is so much social activity around food, you can imagine how isolated I felt - I could no longer go out for pizza and drinks with friends. It was time for me to cultivate a new group of friends, a"life-style change." A support system of at least ONE person to listen and understand you is VITAL.

Alternative grains

Now that I have done my homework (or storework), I can save you some time and steps to knowing what food products are allergy free. Let's look at some of the wheat free/gluten free grains people have been eating for years. (But first, you may ask, what is gluten? Answer: A specific protein fraction in spelt, wheat, rye, oats and barley, more to less in descending order.)
Kamut (KA-MOOT) is a grain that many people with wheat allergies tolerate very well. It is the most buttery, rich, nutty tasting of the grains. It has 20 to 40 percent more protein than wheat. It is easily digestible. Some kamut products in the health food store are: Mrs. Leepers Spaghetti Noodles, Arrowhead Kamut Flakes cereal and Puffed Kamut. Wonderbrot Bakery in Escondido has an incredible loaf of kamut bread made with rosemary, or just kamut flour and sea salt. Try a loaf from the refrigerator or freezer section.

Quinoa (KEEN-WA) Rich and balanced with complex protein, delicious, light and easy to digest. Its balance of amino acids is so outstanding that the National Academy of Science called it "the best source of protein." Wash the seeds before cooking - nature endowed Quinoa with a bitter coating. Try Ancient Harvest brand noodles. Flour is available to cook with. Experiment!

Amaranth is a rediscovered Aztec "Grain of the future." Averaging over 16 percent protein, it contains rich sources of fiber, calcium and phosphorus. Its flavor is wild and woodsy. It has remarkable vitality and energizing qualities. It makes a delicious crust for pies or quiche (my pumpkin pie crust was delicious!).

Baking mixes
Arrowhead brand has a good pancake and waffle mix without wheat or gluten. Their wild rice pancake and waffle mix is great, too.

Rice flour
This is one of the staples of my new lifestyle. Your next gravy could use rice flour instead of wheat or white flour. I can't taste the difference but I can sure feel the difference. Flours available for baking and cooking are: potato, soy, kamut, corn, tapioca, teff, amaranth and rice.

Corn is another good substitute for wheat - IF you don't have a corn allergy as well. Westbrae brand has Angel Hair Corn Pasta that is very tasty.

Read the labels


My experience with a box of "Amaranth cereal" taught me once and for all: the cereal also contained oats and barley. Good thing I read the label before I ate it, since I am allergic to gluten.
Why buy organic? Because certified organic foods are grown without any chemicals or pesticides. Chemical-free farming is only 1 percent of the industry, yet it is important that we move away from chemicals. Support organic farming. It can be more expensive, but your body will appreciate it.


Many are available. TIP: Consider your family's style of eating. Do you like soups, sandwiches, sauces? Do you want to make a change, and what to? Look thoroughly through a cookbook before you purchase it so you don't end up with useless (for your needs) recipes.
Next month: Dairy replacements for milk, cheese, butter and yogurt. There are good replacements for these foods. Remember to share this information with a friend in need!

Shelley Frances Deegan is founder of "Solutions to Food Allergies." They offer informational health food store tours several times per month and "Food Police" services to support you in adapting your kitchen to the preparation of healthy foods. Individual consultations also available. For more information, please call (619) 543-0334.