A rare type, true allergy to wheat, is usually seen in response to it’s consumption rather than on contact with it. Like any other similar problem, wheat allergy symptoms are the outcome of an acute inflammatory response by the body in response to the allergen(s) contained within.
Being a major part of most diets globally, having an intolerance to or an allergy this food can be quiet restricting for the sufferer.
Wheat allergy symptoms in adults
Symptoms like eczema, urticaria (hives), hay fever (runny nose), angioedema (facial swelling), nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps and sacroilitis (hip pain) are fairly common. With Celiac diseaese, one will also experience weight loss and dermatitis herpetiformis, an itchy skin rash.
Rarer manifestations include abdominal bloating, chest pain, diarrhoea, headache, joint pains, muscle pains, palpitations, etc. Migraines were reported by a large number of people in the late 70’s as part of the immune response to this ingredient.
The first exposure generally causes no or minimal problems. The severity usually increases with number and duration of exposure. In later stages, symptoms like Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or severe lethargy may develop.
Wheat allergy is not too different from allergies to other food items like milk, oyster, etc. However, urticaria, exercise-induced and aspirin-induced anaphylaxis are seen more commonly with this problem.
Exercise and aspirin have been shown to increase the level of gliadin (wheat allergen) in blood. Thus, symptoms might often be seen after a couple of minutes in the gym. Patients on aspirin might have to visit their cardiologist and get it replaced with another blood thinning medication like clopidogrel.
Symptoms in children
The reaction to wheat consumption in a susceptible child is almost identical to that of an adult. Urticaria, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, facial swelling, wheezing, fainting are common. The amount consumed also determines the intensity of the reaction.
Parents of many autistic children often complain about wheat allergy in their children although no clear data on the same is available.
Symptoms in babies
The little ones present with a lot of crying, passing flatus, abdominal bloating, diarrhoea and refusal of feeds. It is difficult to determine the trace the problem to a wheat allergy as the symptoms are very indeterminate in a baby. It might take 2-3 episodes to diagnose the culprit.
Wheat in the diet
Wheat intolerance can be due to any of the 27 potent allergens that it contains. Identification of the exact allergen is very difficult but omega gliadin, a relative of the protein that causes celiac disease, is said to produce the most severe symptoms. Being a content of a gamut of foods, it is difficult to replace wheat, but rye and barley can be safely consumed. Bread, bran, cereal extract, cracker meal, gluten-containing products, semolina and whole wheat flour are the obvious ones that need to be done away with to prevent recurrence of gluten allergy symptoms.
A wheat free diet has rice flour as a major component in many recipes. Millet flour, flaxseeds, cornmeal, tapioca and chia are other good substitutes that should be looked out for when buying processed foods. The label ‘gluten-free’ would be most desirable for all wheat allergy patients.
It is advisable to get a test done to show if you have a true allergy or sensitivity to wheat. Ask your doctor for advise and a full diagnosis.