The wheat allergy might be so confusing! I’m sharing Everything You Need To Know About Wheat Allergy in this post. I’ve included a brief overview, tons of information, frequently asked questions, and even tips on managing allergies at home.
I have been dealing with food allergies for more than a decade, and Wheat Allergy has been the most confusing of all for me. Are wheat and gluten the same? What is the difference between wheat and gluten allergy? These and many other questions were unclear to me.
If you, or your loved one, has recently been diagnosed with a wheat allergy, I understand how overwhelming it can feel. You may be wondering, what foods are off-limits? How can I make sure they don’t miss out on making memories? How do we go out to eat?. Let’s get started!
What is Wheat?
Wheat is a widely cultivated cereal grain; its grains are ground to make flour.
According to Mayo Clinic, “Wheat allergy is an allergic reaction to foods containing wheat. Allergic reactions can be caused by eating wheat and also, in some cases, by inhaling wheat flour.”
What happens is, your body’s immune system treats the proteins found in wheat as an enemy and overreacts in a way that causes adverse reactions.
What cause wheat allergy are proteins found in wheat, which create a negative reaction in your body. Your immune system treats these proteins as if they are foreign invaders and completely overreacts. There are 4 proteins found in wheat that you could be allergic to:
Is wheat A gluten?
Gluten is a protein naturally found in some grains, including wheat, barley, and rye. Gluten is also found in flour made from spelt, and triticale (a cross between wheat and rye). Sometimes it’s in oats, but only because the oats may have been processed with other foods that contain gluten. Oats themselves don’t contain gluten. Gluten can be extracted, concentrated, and added to food and other products.
Wheat Allergy vs. Gluten Allergy
Gluten allergy is a misleading term commonly confused with wheat allergy or sometimes celiac disease. There is no such thing as a gluten allergy.
A gluten intolerance is not an allergy, and there are currently no tests for accurate diagnosis. People with specific symptoms might need to be tested for celiac disease, but just a small percentage of people with gluten intolerance have celiac disease.
If you notice certain symptoms after eating bread, pasta, or baked goods, you need to see a doctor to be diagnosed. An allergy can be diagnosed through a skin-prick test or a blood test. Your allergist may also order an oral food challenge if these tests aren’t definitive.
What’s the Difference Between A Wheat Allergy And An Intolerance?
A wheat allergy is very often confused with celiac disease or wheat intolerance, and while they might have similar symptoms, the underlying causes are what differentiates them from each other.
A wheat allergy occurs when a person is allergic to the proteins found in wheat, and their immune system overreacts, resulting in an allergy attack that can be life-threatening.
Gluten intolerance is when you get sick after eating gluten. Gluten intolerance is also called non-celiac gluten sensitivity. It’s not the same as celiac disease or a wheat allergy. Just a small percentage of people with gluten intolerance have celiac disease.
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease in which the antibodies created when ingesting gluten cause the intestine to become damaged and inflamed, causing bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and weight loss.
The main difference between wheat allergy and wheat intolerance is that wheat allergy involves the immune system and might potentially cause a life-threatening reaction (anaphylaxis), while intolerance might cause discomfort but cannot be life-threatening.
While reactions vary between people, most symptoms occur within a few minutes to a few hours after ingesting something containing wheat. Symptoms and reactions can be mild to severe and include:
- Swelling or itching of the mouth and tongue
- Hives or skin rash
- Nasal congestion
- Difficulty breathing
- Cramps and abdominal pain
If you or a loved one experiences any of these reactions, it’s important to see a doctor or allergist immediately.
Anaphylaxis is a less common reaction with a wheat allergy but can be life-threatening if not handled immediately. Symptoms include narrowing of the airways, dizziness or fainting, pale or blue skin color, and difficulty breathing. To know more about this severe allergic reaction, check out my post about What Is Anaphylaxis and How Is Treated.
If you notice any of these symptoms, call 911 immediately.
Treating A Wheat Allergy
The best and only treatment for wheat allergy is that you avoid foods that contain wheat as well as foods that may be contaminated by wheat. When an allergic reaction happens, your doctor may prescribe you medications, such as antihistamines for mild symptoms, and Epinephrine, which is the first-line treatment for anaphylaxis.
Managing Wheat Allergy At Home
In order to safely manage a wheat allergy, it’s best to avoid bringing any products that contain wheat into the house. This includes wheat-free food, personal items, and even trying to avoid cross-contamination while you’re out. It’s essential that you always read products’ labels. Learn my Tips to Read a Label When You Have Food Allergies.
If you need ideas on keeping an allergy-friendly kitchen, be sure to check my 8 Tips to Keeping an Allergy Friendly Kitchen for all kinds of ideas!
While it’s well known that some food, such as bread, contains wheat, there are some common foods that you’d never guess contain it. As required by federal law, Wheat is one of the nine major allergens that must be listed in plain language on packaged foods sold in the U.S., either within the ingredient list or in a separate “Contains” statement on the package. This makes it easy to see if wheat is present in a food item. You must always read ingredient labels very carefully to avoid accidentally ingesting any.
Some common foods that contain wheat are:
- Bread crumbs
- Cakes, muffins, cookies, and other baked goods
- Soy sauce
- Hot dogs
- Ice cream
- Seasoning packets
- Potato chips
- Marinara sauce
Now that you’re going to be reading ingredient labels carefully, you should also be aware of other names for wheat products companies use that aren’t so obvious. These names include:
- Hydrolyzed vegetable protein
- Natural flavorings
- Gelatinized starch
- Modified food starch
- Vegetable gum
There are so many other names as well, so you must always read ingredient labels very carefully to avoid accidental ingestion.
As seen commonly with milk, egg, and soy allergies, studies show there’s a chance your child will outgrow their wheat allergy. One study found that two-thirds of children with a wheat allergy outgrow it by the time they are 12 years old. However, some people remain allergic to wheat throughout their lives.
wheat free Alternatives
Flours: barley, bean, buckwheat, carob, coconut, corn, gram, ground nut (e.g. almond flour), lentil, millet, oat, pea, potato, rice, soya, teff, tapioca.
Grains: amaranth, barley, buckwheat, corn, maize/polenta, millet, oats, quinoa, rice, rye, sorghum.
You’ll need to avoid any foods that contain wheat or wheat products, as well as some unexpected items like personal care items or Play Dough/ modeling clay.
A wheat allergy can cause symptoms and reactions that range from mild to life-threatening. It should always be taken seriously and treated with proper precautions.
You may not suddenly develop a wheat allergy, but you can develop a gluten intolerance later in life. Anything such as medication, stress, severe trauma, pregnancy, or illness can trigger a gluten intolerance as an adult.
Everyone’s symptoms are different, but you may experience hives, abdominal pain, cramping, diarrhea, or nausea.
Food intolerance and food allergies aren’t the same. A wheat allergy causes your immune system to overreact after you eat wheat. A gluten intolerance is a digestive system response.
When a person has a wheat allergy, their body reacts to a protein in wheat, and this protein is not necessarily gluten. Having a wheat allergy does not necessarily mean that you need to avoid gluten – ask your doctor.
Some people with a wheat allergy may be allergic to other cereals (such as barley, rye, or oats). Ask your allergy specialist if you need to avoid all gluten-containing foods or just wheat.
All natural forms of rice — white, brown, or wild — are gluten-free. However, some rice mixes and rice from certain manufacturers that produce gluten products may contain gluten. So, you must always read labels to make sure it’s safe.
Some gluten-free foods/products may still contain wheat starch and are not suitable; if you have a wheat allergy, always check the label.
I know that a wheat allergy can seem like a hard diagnosis to hear. Wheat is found in many foods that are commonly eaten on a daily basis, so excluding it can feel a little daunting. You may feel angry, confused, or like you don’t know where to start. But, I can assure you that if you look in the right spots, there can be an overabundance of support.
Living with a food allergy is totally manageable! Yes, it requires attention to detail, planning, and vigilance. It also means that certain foods must come out of your diet. But it does not mean that life as you know it will end. With some simple safety steps, you can still eat out, travel, go to parties, send your child to school or on play dates, and live a normal life.
Join a Facebook group, read books, or listen to a podcast and I can guarantee you won’t feel as alone. There are also a ton of wheat and gluten-free blogs out there that have AMAZING recipes the whole family will love, so be sure to check them out!