Wheat and whole grain allergies specifically refer to a severe and sudden reaction to specific protein components of wheat and other whole grains. These include albumin, gliadin, globulin, and glutenin (gluten). This is an auto-immune response of the body towards these components. These allergic reactions can be caused by eating foods containing wheat or whole grains or by inhaling flour which contains wheat or whole grains.
Signs and Symptoms
Symptoms that usually appear within a few minutes after consuming or inhaling products containing wheat or other whole grains are asthma, coughing, breathing difficulties, sneezing, watery eyes, rashes, gas, stomach upset or projectile vomiting in some people. Some responses can be life-threatening.
A classic allergic symptom (or anaphylactic response) is a swollen nose. Histamines cause the internal tissue cells to retain fluids. The nose may become stuffy, but it's not serious. An anaphylactic response is serious, however, when it occurs in the tissues of the mouth, tongue and throat. They become so hypersensitive that they cause the tissues to swell up rapidly and will obstruct breathing. The sufferers will gasp for air, possibly suffocating and dying if they don't receive emergency treatment.
However, this food allergy is thought to be rare with an estimated less-than-one-percent of people suffering from true food allergies. Food allergy symptoms tend to be more visible than food intolerance, making it much easier to diagnose them.
It's simply not enough to look at the symptoms to know for sure if a person is having an allergic reaction to wheat and whole grains or if it's just an intolerance to them. The person should visit their doctor. He or she will use methods of detection to diagnose allergy to these foods, such as clinical evaluations of the patient's family history, medical history, and food history. Doctors also use laboratory tests, such as RAST (radioallergosorbent test), a blood test used to see what substances a person is allergic to. Also a skin-prick test, where a few drops of a specific purified allergen is gently pricked on to the skin surface to identify the existence of an allergy. The most reliable method of diagnosing whole grain allergies is the elimination-challenge testing, where the doctor removes specific foods or ingredients from the patient's diet that may be causing the allergy symptoms.
Since wheat and other whole grain elimination diets are difficult for a patient and his or her family to keep, the treatment should be supervised by a dietitian who will provide wheat-free recipes and ensure that the patient has a diet that is nutritionally adequate. Wheat allergic patients with a sensitivity to gluten (or gliadin) should also avoid cereals such as oats, rye and barley which also contain gluten.