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Book Review: Healthier Without Wheat by Dr. Stephen Wangen

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Dr. Stephen Wangen, the “gluten-free doctor” and author of The Irritable Bowel Syndrome Solution (2006), came back in 2009 with an extremely valuable and visually digestible book entitled Healthier Without Wheat: A New Understanding Of Wheat Allergies, Celiac Disease, And Non-Celiac Gluten Intolerance.

Reviewer disclaimer: It is a rare occasion that I opt to read and evaluate something not necessarily for myself but for others. This is one of those occasions. Earlier this year, a sibling of mine, after dealing with severe stomach pains related to foods he ate regularly, was found to be “at risk for celiac disease” by his doctor. And that’s when I learned that he had to stay away from wheat and anything made with gluten. So when the opportunity came along to review a book all about celiac disease, wheat and gluten for Blogcritics Magazine, there was no hesitation on my part to read and review this particular one in the hopes that I would better understand these issues and pass that knowledge (and book) along to my family.

As enlightening as much of the information in this book is, there is a ton of it to consume in 280 pages. Thankfully, it is neatly divided into five parts spread over 13 chapters.

They include the history of wheat and how it became a major part of Western diets and the problems it and gluten causes; celiac disease definition, symptoms outline and testing types; non-celiac symptoms of gluten intolerance and wheat/gluten allergies; a review of the first three sections on how to test for gluten intolerance and wheat/gluten allergies; treatment for gluten intolerance and what to do if your symptoms still exist upon excising wheat and gluten from your diet. Hint: check for other sources of food allergies (dairy, eggs, garlic, almonds, etc). Eight useful Appendix sections (A-H), a medical glossary of terms used throughout the book, an extensive bibliography and index round out the last 84 pages.

After reading all of these chapters, you will become an expert and know in depth all about gluten and wheat, what celiac disease is (villous atrophy and just one form of gluten intolerance), the difference between gluten and lactose intolerance (the former is immune system-based, the latter digestive-system based), and much more. But one of the true highlights is the listing, tips and websites for gluten/wheat-free foods and products found in chapter nine (“Treating Gluten Intolerance and Wheat/Gluten Allergies) and its companion section, Appendix C.

Some of them include gluten-free beer such as Red Bridge, gluten-free soy sauce called tamari, gluten-free bread from companies such as Breads From Anna, and pastas made from rice (Tinkyada Rice Pasta).

For those of you who love cold cut turkey, ham and other meats to make delicious sandwiches with (such as this reviewer), Dr. Wangen makes readers aware that deli meat may have something injected into it that contains gluten. Fortunately, according to the doctor, deli meat makers may offer gluten-free products and that it is worth asking your local deli vendor for them and checking with the manufacturer for gluten-containing ingredients. The list goes on and on.

And gluten intolerance patients thought they’d have to give up beer, soy sauce, bread, favorite sandwiches and pasta for good to be healthy? Not anymore. The market for gluten-free products is big and getting larger all the time for the estimated 30 million Americans who have gluten intolerance and the 3 million with celiac disease.

In sum, Healthier Without Wheat is an essential piece of work and authority on celiac disease, non-celiac gluten intolerance, and makes it easy to understand hosts of other associated issues and ways to treat and test for them. The book's only flaw is a minor one in that some information and tips can get repetitive and appear in multiple chapters (i.e. the constant reminder of the importance of totally eliminating gluten from your diet).

I originally sought this book out on behalf of a sibling but found it to be eye-opening and potentially useful for myself. Learning that gluten intolerance is associated with over 200 health problems/diseases for people of all races, ages and sexes is just one of them, as is the mere fact that inflammation (which I have) is a by-product of gluten intolerance and can be reduced by eating 6,000 mg of fish/fish oil per day because of its healthy omega-3 fats.

In all, any publication that can help people live a healthier life and do so in a cohesive way with credible facts, research and attainable solutions is a book worth buying. Healthier Without Wheat is a promising book in that regard.

To learn more about gluten intolerance and an option to get a personally signed copy of this book, visit Dr. Wagnen’s IBS Treatment Center page.

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About Charlie Doherty

Copy editor/content writer for Penn Multimedia; print/web journalist/freelancer, formerly for Boston Examiner, EMSI, Demand Media, Brookline TAB, Suite 101 and Helium.com; co-head sports editor & asst. music editor at Blogcritics Magazine; Media Nation independent newspaper staff writer, printed/published by the Boston Globe at 2004 DNC (Boston, MA); Featured in Guitar World May 2014. See me on twitter.com/chucko33, myspace.com/charlied, & Facebook.
  • http://www.customchoicecereal.com Hajo (Custom Choice Cereal)

    Thank you for the detailed review. Since gluten-free seems to be the new “fad” diet it attracts a lot of dubious publicity. This is certainly not one of them! As the owner of a company offering customized gluten-free cereal mixes to people with celiac disease, wheat allergy, or gluten intolerance, it is great to read about books such as this. Thanks a lot!

  • charlie doherty

    You’re very welcome! Thanks for taking the time to comment on my review. I really appreciate that.