What is a Wheat Allergy?
A wheat allergy is an immune reaction to any of the hundreds of proteins in wheat. When a person has a wheat allergy, one type of white blood cells, called T-cells, send signals to antibody producing B-cells to release IgE immunoglobulin antibodies to bind with wheat. At the same time, local tissues in the body send out natural chemical messengers to alert the rest of the body that there is a problem. This reaction happens very fast (within minutes to a few hours) and can involve a range of symptoms from nausea, abdominal pain, itching, swelling of the lips and tongue, to trouble breathing, or anaphylaxis (a life-threatening reaction).
A person with a wheat allergy must avoid eating any form of wheat, but does not have trouble tolerating gluten from non-wheat sources. It is possible for a person to be both allergic to wheat and have celiac disease or gluten intolerance.
In the United States, wheat is one of the eight most common foods to which people are allergic. Children who are allergic to wheat may out-grow the allergy, but adults with an allergy to wheat usually have it for life. The only treatment is a wheat-free diet.
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