Tag Archives: wheat allergy
You feel awful most of the time. You’re tired, achy, and it seems like you’ve either got diarrhea or constipation almost constantly. Maybe your skin itches and flakes, or you get unexplained rashes or hives. You may even throw up occasionally, for no obvious reason.
If you’ve sought medical help for your problems, you might have left the doctor’s office frustrated– feeling as if you weren’t being taken seriously. Perhaps the doctor threw out terms like irritable bowel syndrome or chronic fatigue syndrome, leaving you just as confused as when you came in. So you started looking online, and you found something interesting. Is it possible that you suffer from a food allergy or intolerance?
In short– yes. It’s very possible.
There are many types of food intolerance and allergies, and wheat intolerance is one of the most common. But all wheat sensitivity is not created equal. Broadly speaking, health problems related to wheat consumption fall into three categories:
1) Celiac (or Coeliac) Disease
Celiac disease is an immunological (allergic) response in the intestinal tract to a very specific protein contained in wheat and several other grains, called gliadin– a gluten protein. It has many other names, including gluten allergy, gluten enteropathy, gluten intolerance, and coeliac sprue. Over time, it can cause damage to the intestinal tract, but it can be effectively treated with a gluten-free diet. The bad news is, people with celiac disease have it for life. There’s no cure, and they don’t “grow out of it”. The good news is that much of the damage done to the body can repair itself after gluten is removed from the diet.
2) Wheat Allergy
Wheat allergy is also an immunological response to wheat. Unlike celiac disease, however, it includes allergic reactions to many different proteins found in wheat and related cereal grains. It can be gastrointestinal, but it can also be similar to hay fever, causing asthma-like respiratory symptoms, hives, rashes, contact dermatitis, cough, runny nose, and itchy eyes. Sometimes called “baker’s allergy”, wheat allergy may be exacerbated by exercising or taking aspirin, causing a very violent and dangerous– even life-threatening– allergic condition called anaphylaxis. Once again, avoidance is the key, though some wheat allergy sufferers are able to tolerate alternative gluten-containing grains such as barley and rye.
3) Wheat Intolerance
Confusingly, celiac disease is sometimes called “gluten intolerance”. However, wheat intolerance generally refers to a non-allergic negative reaction to eating wheat. Wheat intolerance is not usually as violent or acute as wheat allergy, and can be a lot harder to diagnose because the symptoms may manifest many hours after the consumption of wheat; even up to a couple of days later. Though poorly understood, it’s still an immune-related response, but one which affects a totally different part of the immune system than that which causes a ragweed sufferer to sneeze or someone with a peanut allergy to go into anaphylactic shock. Avoidance is still the main approach to solving the existing problem in individuals with wheat sensitivity, but there’s good news– with careful management, some people may be able to build up a tolerance for small amounts of wheat over time.
If you think you may have a form of wheat sensitivity, there are a range of testing and treatment options, which we will cover in future articles– along with some great tips and recipes for living gluten-free… with style.
No two ways about it – adhering to a strict gluten-free diet is stressful.
Now, a team of leading gastroenterologists at Rush have designed a new study to find out if mind/body techniques can help people with celiac disease adhere to this very strict diet.
Wheat allergy symptoms can be similar to other food allergy symptoms, including stomach pain, cramps, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. However, they may also resemble hay fever, with a runny nose, watery eyes, hives, itchy, flaky skin, or rashes. Another common and rather alarming complaint is arthritic joint pain.
At its most severe, wheat allergy can cause chest pain and anaphylaxis, a life-threatening condition in which the body’s allergic inflammatory response runs out of control.
Exercise, taking aspirin or NSAIDs (like ibuprofen or naproxen), and some food additives like MSG and Benzoate may make a wheat allergy attack worse. Attacks may also become worse over time, with repeated exposure.
Sufferers may break out in a rash or hives just from skin contact with wheat or flour, or start sneezing after breathing pollen from wheat plants. People with wheat allergy are also prone to migraines.
There is anecdotal (non-scientific) speculation that wheat allergy may be linked to autism, though, so far at least, scientific studies do not bear this out. Even so, many parents with autistic children have reported a reduction in digestive and behavioral problems after instituting a wheat and dairy-free diet.
If you think you or a loved one have wheat allergy symptoms, there are several methods for testing. These include skin-prick tests, blood tests, and elimination diets or food challenges, all of which will be covered in other articles.
Your doctor will be able to help you decide on the most appropriate approach.