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What is a Wheat Allergy?


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“What is a Wheat Allergy? Every time I eat anything that has wheat I sometimes have difficulty breathing and become ill. Could it be celiac disease or gluten intolerance?”David S. San Francisco, California

A wheat allergy as the term suggests is basically an allergic reaction to wheat and wheat products. A wheat allergy means you are allergic to a protein in wheat, either gluten, gliadin, globulin or albumin. It is more of a food allergy, but can also occur due to occupational exposure. Wheat allergy symptoms are a histamine based allergic reaction that occur when wheat or its products are ingested. Typically when wheat or its products are taken in, the immune system produces antibodies Immunoglobulin E and this in turn triggers several inflammatory reactions inside the body. Research has shown that the individuals who do not have the necessary enzymes for wheat digestion fall prey to wheat allergy.

Wheat allergy symptoms are a histamine based allergic reaction that occur when wheat or its products are ingested.

There are two methods by which a wheat allergy can be diagnosed; these being the skin – prick test and RAST blood test. In the skin – prick test method, the wheat grain is placed on the skin after it is pricked; if the skin starts burning within 15 minutes this indicates that you are allergic to wheat. The other method for diagnosing wheat allergy is the RAST blood test wherein a blood test is carried out for assessing wheat allergy.

A wheat allergy should not be mistaken with gluten intolerance or celiac disease.

A wheat allergy should not be mistaken with gluten intolerance or celiac disease. Wheat allergy, celiac disease and gluten intolerance are very different disorders; the former one is an allergic reaction and the later are autoimmune disorders. Many individuals mistakenly use both these terms as synonyms. Also, the basic difference between the two is that a wheat allergy can also be caused due to occupational exposure (as explained above) and celiac disease or gluten intolerance occurs only due to ingestion of gluten. You have to keep in mind that the symptoms governing both these diseases are similar, but the pathology of the diseases are different.

Wheat allergy symptoms include arthritis, bloated stomach, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, constipation, depression and mood swings, asthma, ‘hay fever’, chest pain, nausea, vomiting, headache, eczema (specifically atopic dermatitis), joint pain, muscle aches and palpitations. Individuals suffering from wheat allergy may also suffer from angioedema; wherein the tissue swells due to fluid leakage from the neighboring blood vessels and is a very painful condition. Angioedema occurs on the face, tongue, hands and or genitals. Individuals may also experience hives, tiredness, unexplained lethargy, undue fatigue, repeated cough and psoriasis. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is also a common accompaniment of wheat allergy. Individuals experience abdominal cramps and disturbed bowel movements due to IBS caused because of wheat allergy.

If wheat allergy is due to occupational exposure then the individuals may suffer from nasal congestion, sneezing, coughing, watery and itching eyes, running nose, skin rashes which might make you feel irritated round the clock.

Here is a short list of common wheat allergy symptoms:

  • difficulty in breathing
  • hives or itching all over the body
  • sore throat
  • coughing
  • sneezing
  • watery and itching eyes
  • running nose
  • skin rashes
  • swelling all over the face and mouth
  • asthma attack
  • skin allergies
  • skin infections
  • intestinal bloating
  • abdominal cramps
  • inability to focus
  • urticaria
  • vomiting or nausea
  • Anaphylaxis

If not treated on time, a wheat allergy may lead to several debilitating conditions. Individuals may experience anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is a life threatening condition and can even cause death. In addition to the above mentioned symptoms, wheat allergy sufferers may also experience swelling or tightness of the throat, trouble in swallowing, extreme difficulty in breathing, the skin turns pale or blue in color and there is a significant increase of the heartbeat.

Once you notice or experience any or all of these symptoms you must immediately consult your doctor and seek help. The sooner the disease is treated the faster you will get relief from the wheat allergy symptoms.

What is a Wheat Allergy Summary

A Wheat allergy is primarily a type of food allergy that takes place due to our body’s adverse reaction to the proteins present in wheat. Due to this, the moment a person consumes a product that contains even traces of wheat, several kinds of allergic reactions occur, that are very similar to a ‘typical’ allergic reaction.

People with a wheat allergy may experience symptoms such as nausea or vomiting, difficulty in breathing, hives or other skin reactions, intestinal bloating, abdominal cramps, sore throat, swelling all over the face and mouth, itching or tingling. This list is just indicative of the basic symptoms of a wheat allergy and some patients may experience more symptoms.

If left untreated a wheat allergy may lead to several devastating and debilitating conditions in the long run. People may experience brain fog, anxiety and even depression.

As mentioned before, unlike typical allergic reactions, sensitivity to gluten and celiac disease patients may not necessarily exhibit these wheat allergy symptoms immediately, meaning they are not ‘type I hypersensitivity‘. These reactions typically have have life long and very serious effects on the health of patients.

If you suspect you may suffer from a wheat allergy, please consult a physician to understand a little more about this harmful ‘link’ to celiac disease and gluten intolerance.

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