Here is a fairly complete guide that will explain how to recognize and choose the types of flour on the market, for bread, pizza and pasta; then we tell you about the gluten intolerance caused by some flours, gluten sensitivity and natural remedies.


Flour is the product of grinding seeds, dried fruits, roots and tubers. Not only wheat therefore, but the grains of all other cereals and pseudo cereals, almonds, legumes, potatoes, can be dried and then ground and reduced to flour. The most common use in Italy of flour is for the preparation of bread, pasta, pizza, desserts and the most used is wheat flour.

Wheat flour: durum wheat and soft wheat

Wheat flour can be durum wheat or soft wheat.

Durum wheat is that of the Triticum turgidum species. For example, durum wheat comes from the grinding of durum wheat. Durum wheat has a generally higher protein content than common wheat and is more resistant to cooking in water: this is why it is the most suitable for the production of dry pasta.

The soft wheat (Triticum aestivum) is the species that, due to its wide use in the baking and production of fresh pasta, takes on greater importance among the cereals grown today and is nothing more than the hybridization of a cultivated subspecies of Triticum turgidum with a wild species, the Aegilops tauschii. From the grinding of soft wheat comes soft wheat flour, the most widely used and commercially used flour. The soft wheat flour is classified on the market according to the degree of refining with the abbreviations 00, 0, 1, 2, wholemeal: in this order they indicate flour with bran content and growing nutrients.

The 00 flour is the most refined, the one with the finest grain and is mainly used for desserts. The 00 flour is obtained from the industrial milling of the grain of wheat, from which both the germ (rich in vitamins and minerals) and the bran (the outermost part, rich in fiber) are eliminated; moreover, the use of metal rollers for grinding overheats the flour, depriving it in part of nutrients, such as vitamins. 00 flour has been more successful on the market as it is kept much longer (it does not have wheat germ, which could cause rancidity), it is cheaper for industry to produce it (it is ground with rollers in steel compared with a grinder with natural stone: in an hour of grinding with rollers you get about 4000 kg of flour, 300 kg with stone).

Type 0 flour is less refined than type 00 flour and contains a very small percentage of bran; it is generally the most used for bread. Type 1 flour is less refined than type 0 flour and has a higher percentage of bran. Type 2 flour (semi-wholemeal flour) contains almost all parts of the grain, from the germ to the bran. The wholemeal flour derives from the milling of the grain but also from the coating, therefore it contains all the parts of the grain. The flours to be preferred are wholemeal or type 2 flours, organic, stone-ground and fresh.

In fact, until a few decades ago, only wholemeal flour existed. It was then progressively supplanted by the extremely processed flour (flour 0 or 00), which allows the creation of a whiter and softer bread, but which is quickly converted into blood glucose, thus increasing blood sugar levels (which for a long time go can promote a pathological state such as diabetes or other degenerative diseases). In less processed flours, from type 1 to wholemeal, the presence of fibers slows down the absorption rate of the carbohydrates present.

The best types of wheat flour: ancient flour and modern flour

Sourdough bread (not with brewer’s yeast!) Prepared with ancient grains brings us back to aromas or flavors of our Mediterranean tradition. For a good bread you need good flours, strictly not industrially refined, not from raw materials treated with pesticides (therefore better the biological ones), stone-ground and of ancient grains.

The best known types of ancient durum wheat (triticum durum) are: Senatore Cappelli, Khorasan Saragolla, Timilia, Russello, spelled dicocco; types of ancient soft wheat (triticum aestivum) are: Maiorca, Gentil Rosso, Verna, Solina, to name a few. Furthermore, we cannot fail to mention the ancient monococcus wheat.

The ancient grains have not undergone industrial processing; they are natural, selected by the farmers as suitable for their land. The gluten of ancient grains is more suitable for our physiology: it contains less toxic epitopes, molecular structures that activate the immune response by the lymphocytes of people with celiac disease. That’s why in ancient times there was no intolerance or sensitivity to gluten. More studies have shown that, compared to modern varieties, ancient grains have beneficial effects on cholesterolemia, on the inflammatory state, on oxidative damage to cell membranes, on intestinal function. These effects also depend on the greater variety of polyphenols present in them. Preferring ancient grains can also be useful in case of irritable colon. By rediscovering these ancient flours, still cultivated in Italy by small local producers, it could also allow us to favor the local economy and protect biodiversity.

In 1974, Creso wheat was obtained by hybridization with the variety CPB144, a mutant of the Senatore Cappelli wheat, obtained by subjecting it to X-ray irradiation. Most of today’s grains descend from these modified grains. The modern grains compared to the ancient ones show a modification of gluten, in particular of gliadin (a fraction of it), with toxic effects on the junction between the lining cells of the intestinal mucosa and an increase in intestinal permeability. The situation worsened with refining and increasing sugar consumption, which contributed to weakening our immune system.

Gluten is the set of proteins that contain wheat, barley, rye, oats and various other types of grains belonging to the Graminacee family and is made up of 45% gliadins and 55% glutenins. The set of gliadins and glutenins is called prolamine. “Modern” gluten contains high quantities of prolamines, which are rich in proline (an amino acid that is not easily digestible since in the digestive tract of man, in some cases, specific digestive enzymes are missing). Proline degrades by an oxidase which converts it to glutamic acid. Glutamic acid is a neuro excitatory transmitter precursor to Gaba.

Types of flours: flours with gluten and flours without gluten

The gluten-rich flours (wheat, spelled, kamut, barley, rye, oat flour) are also called “bread-making”. The most bread-making ones are the most protein-rich ones.

Gluten-free flours are also called “non-bread-making” and could also be used as a complement to a bread-making flour (from 10% to 50%). There are many gluten-free flours: the most common are buckwheat, rice (white or wholemeal), quinoa, corn, chestnut and sorghum flours. To approach the elasticity of gluten, it is essential to combine different types of non-bread-making flours, adding thickening agents, such as xanthan gum and / or Guar flour, also it is good to sift the mixture of the various flours without the yeast. Gluten-free breads and desserts are suitable for those suffering from gluten intolerance.

Allergies and gluten intolerance: Gluten Sensitivity, wheat allergy, celiac disease

Adverse reactions to gluten include: celiac diseasewheat allergy and gluten sensitivity.

Wheat allergy is an adverse immunological reaction to wheat: it is a real food allergy (in this post you will find the difference between food intolerance and food allergy) caused by wheat proteins. Wheat allergy, being an allergy, triggers a more immediate immune response than that induced by celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. Those who are allergic to wheat can also be allergic to cereals such as barley, rye, oats, which contain similar proteins. This allergy is 10 times rarer than celiac disease. Wheat allergy symptoms: intestinal and extraintestinal (cannot be distinguished from the symptoms of gluten intolerance when presenting with gastrointestinal symptoms).

Gluten intolerance is instead a food intolerance: it takes place without perceiving immediate effects, since it is linked to the incomplete digestion of gluten proteins. In particular:

– celiac disease is a chronic autoimmune disease, a permanent food intolerance towards gluten that triggers an immune response in the genetically predisposed person that seriously damages the epithelial mucosa of the small intestine, causing poor absorption of all foods;

– gluten sensitivity (or Gluten Sensitivity) is a form of symptomatic gluten intolerance. Gluten sensitivity is defined as “a reaction to gluten intake in cases where celiac disease and wheat allergy have been excluded.” Those who suffer from it do not tolerate gluten and develop symptoms that can be very similar to those of celiac disease, but to the contrary to celiac disease, gluten sensitivity can develop over the years and does not have an autoimmune component.It is currently estimated that in Italy there are more than 3 million people with Gluten Sensitivity and it is about 6 times more frequent than celiac disease.

Symptoms Gluten intolerance: The symptoms of gluten intolerance include gastrointestinal disorders such as feeling of heaviness in the stomach, abdominal bloating, diarrhea and abdominal pain, but also extra intestinal disorders, such as feeling of confusion, headache and joint and muscle pain. The symptoms of gluten sensitivity usually occur a few days (or hours) after the consumption of gluten-containing foods, while for celiac disease they can occur after weeks or years.

In Italy it is estimated that almost one in two people suffer from some type of problem in the digestion of gluten, after eating bread, pizza, beer, etc., with consequent abdominal bloating. In addition, gluten sensitivity, digestive difficulties of gluten and celiac disease are constantly increasing, this due to the large use of modern industrial flour (finer grinding, refining, bleaching), leavening with brewer’s yeast, hasty chewing, and use of modern wheat.

Gluten intolerance: the natural remedies of Erboristeria Como

People with celiac disease must permanently eliminate gluten from their diet. For those who have abdominal bloating when taking gluten-rich foods, showing sensitivity to gluten, they will surely have to drastically reduce the consumption of gluten and in case of sporadic intake of food with gluten, the natural remedies that Erboristeria Como recommends you, which you can find in our online herbalist shop, are intolerance digest and erboflora intoleranceIntolerance digest 1-2 tablets before meals, Erboflora intolerance 1 vials per day for 24 days. Gastro Re Build in the case of intolerance diarrhea.

Other posts related to the topic and that may interest you are: Food allergies and intolerances: let’s learn to recognize themFood intolerances: natural remedies.

Dr. Laura Comollo

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