Wheat Allergy (Gluten Allergy)-Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Wheat Allergy (Gluten Allergy): Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Introduction

An allergy is a condition where one’s immune system is over sensitized and reacts to the immediate environment, including foods eaten. Wheat allergy or gluten allergy (also known as celiac disease) is a condition where a person has allergic reactions to wheat and food containing wheat or gluten protein found in wheat, barley and rye. Wheat allergy has been reported to be an ‘impending epidemic’ in India by the Indian Journal of Medical Research and thus, requires immediate attention.

Causes

In case of oversensitivity of wheat and wheat proteins in the immune system, one may develop allergy by consuming products containing wheat or simply using them or inhaling them. There are four kinds of wheat proteins that may be the cause for the allergic reaction – albumin, globulin, gliadin and gluten. Allergic reactions from gluten is the most abnormal and common one. Wheat protein may, apart from wheat based food products, also contain in cosmetics, bath items and play dough. Other factors in wheat allergy include family history (if parents have food allergy) and age (usually children below 16 are affected after which they tend to outgrow it; adults may develop it if they are allergic to grass-pollen).

Symptoms

The symptoms of wheat allergy may show in a child or an adult. The most common symptoms include swelling, itching or irritation in the mouth or throat; hives, itchy rash or skin swelling; nasal congestion; headache; difficulty in breathing; cramps, nausea or vomiting; and diarrhoea. In addition to these above mentioned symptoms of wheat allergy, someone may develop anaphylaxis (which may sometimes be induced only after the person exercises within a few hours of eating wheat) and its symptoms include swelling or tightness of the throat; chest pain; chest tightness; severe difficulty in breathing; trouble swallowing; pale, blue skin color; dizziness; and fainting. It is to be noted that anaphylaxis, an extremely serious symptom, is potentially life-threatening, and needs immediate medical assistance.

Diagnosis

To diagnose a wheat allergy, a comprehensive physical test is done, alongside collection of a detailed medical history. Tests include a skin test, blood test, elimination test where certain foods are eliminated to find the root cause for the symptoms, ort food-challenge test where certain foods are added, and finally, by asking the patient to maintain a food diary.

Treatment

Treatment for wheat allergy is mostly done by the usage of drugs such as antihistamines for minor symptoms and epinephrine for anaphylaxis. However, today with the growth of advanced studies, immunotherapy, has proven to be an effective tool for managing and curing wheat allergy. Immunotherapy is essentially oral or through shots where it is aimed to desensitize the immune system against certain allergens, in this case being wheat and gluten. Oral immunotherapy for wheat allergy, has in a recent double-blind placebo-controlled study, shown that it allows patients to be successfully desensitized to wheat and even tolerate gluten after 8-10 weeks. This treatment is at the primary stages aimed at preventing anaphylaxis. Apart from this, it is pertinent to have a gluten-free diet and lifestyle. This is why it also becomes important to consider nutrition therapy and diet therapy so as to assure that the patient receives all essential nutrients through diet irrespective of the fact that gluten cannot be a part of it. We at Eva Physiocare ensure a well-integrated wellness programme for wheat allergy patients and it includes a comprehensive nutrition and diet therapy as well as oral immunotherapy.