Wheat Allergy is a post from: Gluten Intolerance Symptoms
I’ve received some requests to discuss a wheat allergy in greater detail, so here we go. When you eat wheat do you notice digestive discomfort? Do you ever sneeze, wheeze or have a rash after consuming pizza, bread or other wheat based foods? If so, then you may have a wheat allergy. A wheat allergy is fundamentally different from a gluten intolerance, but that doesn’t mean someone suffering from this type of allergic reaction won’t experience serious and troubling wheat allergy symptoms.
Wheat Allergy vs. Gluten Intolerance
Unfortunately you will find tons of misleading information on the web where people use the terms wheat allergy, gluten intolerance and even celiac disease interchangeably. However, these are not all the same condition.
- A Wheat Allergy is a histamine based allergic reaction. When a person with this allergy ingests wheat, a hypersensitive immune system produces antibodies known as IgE (Immunoglobulin E). When histamine stimulates H1 and H2 receptors, it triggers an inflammatory response in your body. Histamine helps dilate blood vessels so that white blood cells (in this case mast cells and basophils, specifically) can fight off the allergy trigger (called the allergen or antigen). As a result, more fluids enter the cells and skin. This causes swelling and other symptoms, which may cascade in severity (untreated anaphylactic shock can be fatal). An allergy is a type I hypersensitivity, implying it triggers an immediate response.
- Celiac Disease is an autoimmune disorder where the immune system of a patient who ingested gluten (a composite protein found in grassy grains like wheat, spelt, rye and barley) produces excessive antibodies (specifically AGA, EMA and Anti-tTG), which attack the walls of the small intestine (and possibly the cerebellum as well — see my Gluten Ataxia guide). Over time, exposure to gluten causes significant damage to the villi (or microvilli) along the lining of the small intestines and can lead to frustrating gastrointestinal problems at first and then serious malnutrition, which then catalyzes a long list of more severe consequences. Celiac disease symptoms include (but are not limited to) nutritional deficiencies like anemia, osteoporosis and weight loss. Some people also experience general digestive distress and indigestion, bloating and alternating bouts of diarrhea and constipation. Celiac disease is a serious condition that can even lead to death if not treated in a timely manner. One problem with identifying celiac disease symptoms is that they may not manifest themselves in an obvious way at first, which leads many people to not understand their condition until serious damage to their small intestine has already begun.
- Gluten Intolerance, or Gluten Sensitivity, is similar to celiac disease (and many people use the two terms interchangeably), but the difference is that people with gluten intolerance may have similar symptoms to someone with celiac disease, yet they might still have healthy villi in their small intestines. In some cases gluten intolerance is simply an early stage of celiac disease. Until recently, some people believed a non-celiac gluten sensitivity existed, but doctors and researchers remained skeptical. However, first a study in Australia and now a more recent study published in the BMC Medicine Journal finally corroborates this belief with real scientific data. What this means is that one can test negative for the various celiac disease tests (antibody check, intestinal biopsy, and celiac gene check — see gluten intolerance test for more on celiac testing) but still experience some degree of impairing gluten sensitivity.
Wheat Allergy Symptoms
If you suffer from a wheat allergy, here are some of the symptoms you can expect:
- Eczema or atopic dermatitis
- Inflamed sores
- Intestinal bloating or cramping
- Itchy eyes
- Sensation of a racing heart
- Sore throat, or a feeling of the throat swelling
- Stomach discomfort
- Swelling in the face or mouth
- Swollen-feeling or itchy tongue
- Vomiting in severe cases
Additional, cumulative effects may develop if a wheat allergy is left untreated and undiagnosed, including reduced energy, brain fog and anxiety or even depression. Specifically, as with all allergies, anaphylactic shock is a possibility and can be deadly. Some common gluten intolerance symptoms, such as diarrhea or constipation, are not as common with a wheat allergy, but they still may occur.
Gluten intolerance symptoms can be similar, except that you may notice them anytime you eat any kind of gluten grain or gluten grain food product. Gluten grains are wheat, spelt, rye and barley. Oats are also usually contaminated with gluten as they are almost always processed with gluten grains, though they don’t contain the gluten peptides causing gluten intolerance.
However, what is troubling about a gluten sensitivity is that many patients do not experience an immediate response to ingesting gluten. Unlike an allergy, a gluten intolerance or celiac disease is not a type I hypersensitivity. This does not mean it is any less serious a condition and in fact it may lead to more severe long-term consequences because people often don’t realize they are suffering from the disease. For a better understanding of gluten and gluten intolerance read the home page of my website (Gluten Intolerance Symptoms) and for help understanding the technically inaccurate term gluten allergy symptoms please read my guide on that strange semantic matter: Gluten Allergy Symptoms.
Wheat Allergy Treatment
While living with a wheat allergy can be inconvenient and even frustrating at first, feel comforted by the fact that you will find effective treatment. The best way to combat a wheat allergy or a gluten intolerance is by following a wheat-free diet or a gluten-free diet. Fortunately, today you will find many products on the market which do not contain wheat or gluten. At first, it may be easiest to do more of your own cooking and avoid eating out. You will experience a learning curve as you discover which foods contain wheat or gluten — particularly in restaurant food. I suggest you peruse my gluten free pantry to help you get started on gluten-free and wheat-free cooking. When you do go for meals out, choose Asian restaurants initially (but bring wheat-free soy sauce) since you will usually find more wheat-free offerings at Japanese, Thai and Chinese restaurants.
Until you develop the knowledge and skills to live wheat-free or if aren’t yet sure that wheat is causing your allergic reactions, you might consider taking an antihistamine, such as Benedryl (diphenhydramine), Claritin (loratadine), Allegra (fexofenadine) or Zyrtec (cetirizine). But please discuss this suggestion with a pharmacist or better yet your doctor. You should never prescribe yourself medication by what you read on the Internet without consulting an in-person medical professional first. Also, please note that antihistamines are useless for gluten intolerance or celiac disease.
You might also consider that medications often have side-effects and their own consequences. So you should not take any of those antihistamines without serious consideration. You should carefully weigh their benefits against their side-effects before deciding to proceed with one of them. If you would prefer a natural alternative to antihistamine medications you might look into quercetin, a plant-derived flavonoid found in foods like grapefruit, green tea, apples, and red onions. I’ve heard it works well, but it won’t be as potent as the aforementioned allergy medications and I’ve heard some people complain about mild heartburn when they take quercetin.
Once you understand the cause of your allergic reaction, avoiding the consequences by avoiding exposure to wheat will become easier. By respecting your wheat allergy and adhering to a strict wheat-free diet, you may never have to suffer another wheat allergic reaction again.