You are here:

Gluten Allergies

Gluten Allergies

A gluten allergy—not to be confused with gluten sensitivity
or celiac disease—is caused by gliadin, a glycoprotein that, along with
glutenin (another protein), helps to form the gluten protein. Gluten is found
in wheat and other related grains such as barley, oats, and rye. Gliadin is
also one of the major allergens associated with wheat allergies and a trigger
for celiac disease, a serious autoimmune disorder of the small intestine.

Unlike a gluten allergy, in which small amounts of gluten
may be tolerated, a patient with celiac disease cannot tolerate any gluten at
all. When a person with celiac disease eats gluten, the immune system begins
unnecessary inflammation, and eventually damages the lining of the small
intestine. Celiac disease restricts absorption of nutrients and may lead to
weight loss and malnutrition. Because celiac disease shares symptoms with a
number of other disorders, including a gluten allergy, it is important that a
person be tested if she suspects she has the condition.

A person with gluten sensitivity (also known as gluten
intolerance) may have symptoms such as bloating, abdominal pain, or diarrhea,
but, because the immune or autoimmune symptoms are not involved, it is not
considered as serious a condition as celiac disease or gluten allergy. As many
as 6 percent of Americans have gluten sensitivity.

Gluten allergies and celiac disease are a major public
health concern. It is estimated that 0.6 percent of children and 0.9 percent of
adults in the U.S. have a gluten allergy while another one percent suffer from
celiac disease.

Signs and Symptoms

In Adults

Symptoms
of a gluten allergy are often similar to those in celiac disease and may include
abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation, fatigue, bloating, heartburn, bloating,
anxiety and anemia.

Additional symptoms of a gluten allergy
may include:

  • trouble breathing
  • ulcers in the mouth
  • asthma
  • depression
  • osteoporosis
  • weight loss
  • rash
  • swelling of the lips
  • irritability
  • anaphylaxis (in
    extreme cases)

In Children

A
gluten allergy may look very different in children as opposed to adults,
therefore it is important for parents to monitor their child’s behavior, as
well as his or her diet, if they suspect a gluten allergy.  This allergy may go into remission only
to return in later years.

In
addition to the above symptoms, children with a gluten allergy may experience
eczema.

Tests

Gluten
allergies are notoriously difficult to ascertain. Any number of conditions may
cause symptoms similar to a gluten allergy, including gluten intolerance and
celiac disease.  In addition,
symptoms may vary greatly within a single individual, from constipation to diarrhea.

The
only way for a person to find out if she has a gluten allergy for sure is to be
tested. One of the most common tests to determine whether a person has a gluten
allergy is an elimination diet. In an elimination diet, a person removes
gluten-containing foods, such as wheat or pasta, from his or her diet for a
period of time to see if symptoms resolve.  However, an elimination diet will not rule out either celiac
disease or gluten sensitivity.

Other
ways to test for a gluten allergy include an IgE or cell-mediated test, which
times reactions to various allergens or skin tests. A blood test, along with a
stool test for gluten intolerance, is generally recommended because it is
possible to have a positive food allergy reading but a negative gluten
sensitivity test reading for all of the grains containing gluten and vice
versa with these types of tests.

Blood Tests

A
food allergy/intolerance blood test such as skin prick tests (SPT),
prick-in-prick tests, and lymphocyte activation tests can positively identify
whether or not a person has a gluten allergy.

Diagnosis

If
a positive diagnosis for a gluten allergy is made and celiac disease is
eliminated as a cause of the symptoms, a person can determine how much, if any,
gluten he can tolerate in his diet. If a person has a gluten allergy, avoiding
gluten may resolve symptoms, give ?him more energy, and generally improve his
quality of life. 

Diet

Wheat
is the predominant grain product in the US, so removing it from the diet can be
very difficult for many people. Because barley, oats, and rye also contain
gluten, the list of replacement grains becomes even smaller. Alternatives
include amaranth, corn, quinoa, rice, and tapioca. However, as the breadth of
the health concerns associated with gluten are becoming more widely known, many
food processing companies and restaurants are offering an ever-larger selection
of gluten-free options every day.

Posted by: Dr.Health

Back to Top