What is a Gluten Allergy?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

A gluten allergy is a condition in which an individual experiences an adverse reaction to the consumption of any substance containing gluten proteins. Sometimes referred to as a wheat allergy, a gluten allergy exhibits many of the same symptoms as Celiac disease, although the two conditions are generally not considered to be the same ailment. However, many physicians will order tests for Celiac disease if the patient exhibits some degree of intolerance for what based products.

Chickpeas are gluten free.
Chickpeas are gluten free.

One important point that distinguishes a gluten allergy from Celiac disease is that someone with this type of food allergy is often able to consume small and infrequent amounts of wheat based products without exhibiting a severe reaction. By contrast, an individual suffering with Celiac disease would have to avoid gluten in any form or run the risk of serious repercussions each and every time even a tiny amount of gluten is consumed.

Wheat contains gluten, which many people are allergic to.
Wheat contains gluten, which many people are allergic to.

There are a number of symptoms associated with a gluten allergy. Some of the more common symptoms include a constant feeling of fatigue, even upon waking after a good night’s rest. Another typical allergic reaction to gluten is depression that seems to appear from nowhere and remains for an extended period of time. In some cases, the individual may experience a significant loss in iron and develop anemia. Weight loss, constipation, bloating in the abdomen, and a sudden inability to focus on basic tasks may also indicate the presence of a gluten allergy.

Dermatitis herpetiformis may be caused by a gluten allergy or Celiac disease.
Dermatitis herpetiformis may be caused by a gluten allergy or Celiac disease.

Because all the symptoms of a gluten allergy can also be associated with other allergies and health ailments, it is important to consult a physician. Often, the doctor will order a range of tests that will determine if an allergy of this type is present. Many of these same tests will also indicate if Celiac disease is present. Once the diagnosis is confirmed, the physician can assist the patient in making the necessary lifestyle changes to deal with the situation.

The symptoms of celiac disease include bloating, malnutrition, and deficiencies in various nutrients.
The symptoms of celiac disease include bloating, malnutrition, and deficiencies in various nutrients.

For many people, uncovering a gluten allergy explains health issues that they have endured off and on all their lives. Since the symptoms are often mild and transient, it is not unusual for people to assume the root cause of their discomfort is due to a flu bug, a lack or exercise, or some other contributing factor. However, once the allergy is confirmed and a conscious effort to minimize or eliminate gluten products from the diet takes place, the individual begins to enjoy a quality of health that is significantly better than in times past.

Because gluten is found in products containing wheat, many prepared foods must be avoided. However, alternative products can often allow the gluten allergy sufferer to make use of creative recipes in order to substitute. For example, flour made from finely ground chickpeas may be used to create pizza crusts and other bread items.

The damage done to the villi in the intestinal lining is caused by the body's autoimmune response to eating gluten.
The damage done to the villi in the intestinal lining is caused by the body's autoimmune response to eating gluten.
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including wiseGEEK, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

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Discussion Comments

gregg1956

This is a great article -- my daughter has gluten intolerance, so we have to be all up on the symptoms.

Some of the other gluten intolerance and allergy symptoms are bloating, attention deficit problems (in both kids and adults) asthma, and irritability.

So you can see why it can be hard to make a gluten allergy diagnosis sometimes -- all of those symptoms can just as easily point to another condition!

pharmchick78

@Earlyforest -- There is a difference. Basically, a gluten allergy is when your body reacts to any gluten you consume as though it were harmful, and tries to get rid of it with an immune response.

On the other hand, a gluten intolerance is when you can take small amounts of gluten without really negative effects, but if taken in large quantities, your body will react badly.

However, a gluten intolerance will not cause the body to create antibodies (an immune response), while a true gluten food allergy will.

EarlyForest

Is there a difference between a gluten allergy and gluten intolerance? Is one more serious than the other, or are they just different names for the same thing?

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