Wheat Allergy vs. Gluten Allergy

Often confused because of their similar restrictive diets, a wheat allergy and a gluten allergy are two different medical conditions.

What Is a Wheat Allergy?

A wheat allergy occurs when a person’s body has built up a specific antibody to wheat protein. Antibodies are disease fighting agents. When wheat is consumed, the body believes that the wheat is harmful to the body and produces an allergy-causing antibody to fight the wheat protein.

What Is a Gluten Allergy?

Gluten allergies are often referred to as Celiac Disease, which is not an allergy at all. People who cannot tolerate gluten have an autoimmune disease. Celiac Disease is a genetic condition. When a person with Celiac Disease eats a food with gluten, it sets off an autoimmune reaction in their small intestines. This reaction produces antibodies, which attack the intestines and can cause damage.

What Are the Symptoms of Wheat Allergies?

If a person with a wheat allergy eats a food with wheat protein, then they may experience a range of symptoms including hives, itchy eyes, nausea, difficulty breathing or swelling of the throat.

What Are the Symptoms of Gluten Intolerance?

People who have a gluten intolerance often have diarrhea, abdominal pain, bloating and weight loss. All of these symptoms may lead to malnutrition and other gastrointestinal problems.

How Is a Wheat Allergy Diagnosed?

If your doctor suspects you have a wheat allergy, he may ask you to keep food diary. You may be asked to eliminate wheat from your diet to see if this helps diminish symptoms. Finally, a doctor may conduct a skin or blood test.

How Is Gluten Intolerance Diagnosed?

A gluten intolerance, or Celiac Disease, is diagnosed through a blood test.  The test will be used to search for particular antibodies that only show up in people with Celiac Disease. A doctor may also want to do a biopsy of the intestines to verify the diagnosis.

Diets to Follow

A person with a wheat allergy has to avoid all foods that contain wheat. Gluten is found in wheat, rye and barley. People who are diagnosed with Celiac Disease are unable to foods containing any of these proteins.

Treatments

While no medications can cure a wheat allergy, a doctor may advise you to take medication to treat the symptoms. Antihistamines may help reduce symptoms. For more severe cases, a doctor may have you carry Epinephrine, which will help if a person’s throat begins to swell after eating wheat.

Unfortunately, there are no medications that can help with the symptoms of a gluten intolerance nor are there any medicines that can cure this disease.

While a person with a gluten sensitivity cannot eat any foods containing wheat, a person with a wheat allergy may be able to eat certain grains or proteins not allowed for people with a gluten intolerance.  Unfortunately, a person could have both a wheat allergy and Celiac disease. Following a modified diet can help eliminate symptoms and allow for a normal lifestyle.

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