A wheat allergy is basically being allergic to wheat. It is one of the top eight most common food allergies (along with milk, soy, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish and shellfish) and can be difficult to manage due to the fact that about three-quarters of all grain products contain wheat flour. It is important to note that being allergic to wheat is different from celiac disease.
Wheat allergy natural treatment involves avoiding anything containing wheat.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of a Wheat Allergy?
An allergic reaction to wheat is similar to other types of food allergies. Symptoms can range from sneezing, congestion and/or asthma to hives, skin rashes or swelling to digestive issues like stomach ache, nausea, diarrhea and/or vomiting.
Life-threatening reactions known as anaphylaxis can also occur. In cases like this a person may experience symptoms such as difficulty breathing and/or swallowing, swelling of the throat, chest pain, dizziness, fainting and/or a fast heartbeat. Immediate medical intervention is critical with an Epi-Pen and call to 911.
What Causes It?
A wheat allergy occurs when the body mistakenly views the wheat protein as an invader out to cause harm. It typically begins in the baby or early toddler years and is often accompanied by other food allergies. In many cases children outgrow the allergy with about 65 percent being wheat allergy-free by the time they enter the teen years.
How Is It Diagnosed?
If a wheat allergy is suspected, a doctor will perform a physical exam along with a combination of tests depending on the situation. In a skin test tiny amounts of wheat proteins are pricked into the skin to see if there is a reaction. A blood test can screen for antibodies.
Often patients are asked to keep a food diary where they write down what they have eaten and any reactions afterward. An elimination diet is another possibility where certain foods are avoided and then slowly added back in while noting any symptoms. Finally, in food challenge testing small amounts of the food may be eaten under very close supervision to see if a reaction results.
How Is It Treated?
Avoidance of anything containing wheat is crucial to preventing a reaction. Reading labels is a must and meeting with a registered dietitian can be helpful.
What Should Be Avoided?
Education and diligence are important in working to avoid wheat. As expected it is often in breads, pasta, crackers and many desserts like cookies and cake. More surprisingly, however, are other foods like hot dogs, ketchup, soy sauce and ice cream which may also contain it. Beer, licorice, jelly beans and hard candy may be culprits as well. Even make-up and playdough may have wheat in them.
Labels should always be read very carefully to avoid accidental ingestion.
What If an Allergic Reaction Occurs?
The possibility of an allergic reaction should be discussed with a doctor and a plan put into place. Generally speaking someone with a wheat allergy may be prescribed an epinephrine auto-injector (commonly known as an Epi-Pen) to use if he or she feels a reaction coming on. Antihistamines may help ease symptoms but should not be used in place of epinephrine which is the gold standard for treating life-threatening anaphylaxis. 911 should also be called in the event of a severe reaction.
Is a Wheat Allergy the Same Thing as Celiac Disease?
A wheat allergy is different than celiac disease. While people with a wheat allergy may be allergic to other foods there is also a chance they are not and wheat is the only food to be avoided.
Individuals with celiac disease, on the other hand, need to avoid all foods containing gluten (foods with wheat, barley, rye, spelt, kamut and some oat products among others).
The reactions also differ. For people with a wheat allergy reactions can be life threatening. Celiac disease also has serious consequences to eating gluten but the damage is over the long term with ailments like fatigue, malnutrition and anemia being possible.
Written by Kristen Stewart
Kristen is a freelance writer specializing in health, nutrition, parenting and lifestyle topics. To learn more, visit her website at kristenestewart.com.