Wheat and wheat proteins are in so many different foods, so it can be extremely inconvenient when you have a wheat intolerance. This intolerance can cause a lot of different health problems if it isn’t controlled. In fact, a wheat intolerance could be so serious that it may be fatal.
The key to managing this debilitating allergy is knowing the symptoms and knowing how to live with it so you don’t trigger the symptoms. Keep reading to find out more about wheat intolerance and the symptoms that it causes.
What is a Wheat Intolerance?
A wheat intolerance (also called wheat allergy or non-celiac gluten sensitivity) is a condition in which a person has adverse reactions to eating wheat or wheat components. Wheat allergies may sound relatively straightforward and it generally is. However, there tends to be a bit of confusion that can blur the definition.
First, a wheat allergy is not the same as gluten intolerance. Many people use the terms interchangeably, but this is incorrect. It’s possible to be able to tolerate gluten in other foods such as rye or barley. However, if you can’t tolerate gluten, then you probably can’t tolerate wheat.
Another mix up is that a wheat allergy is Celiac Disease, or it causes Celiac Disease (CD). CD is related more to gluten intolerance, not wheat allergies. This means you can have wheat allergies and not have CD. However, if you have CD, you may not be able to tolerate wheat.
Wheat allergy is a condition that is still under medical and scientific investigation. There are quite a few different speculations as to why people have wheat allergies or what causes it. Even the way foods are processed is a theory behind wheat allergies.
One thing is for sure about wheat allergies – when a person has this condition, it’s obvious. There are quite a few signs that can’t be ignored. In the next section are eight signs of a wheat allergy.
Eight Signs of a Wheat Intolerance
1. Joint Pain
Joint pain is commonly reported in people with a wheat allergy, especially when that intolerance is due to gluten. In wheat intolerant people, eating wheat proteins can trigger an autoimmune response. This response causes a person’s immune system to attack the allergens. Unfortunately, the attack causes inflammation around the joints. This attack and the subsequent inflammation are what causes joint pain.
2. Mental or Emotional Issues
Certain proteins in wheat have been scientifically shown to negatively affect your mood and cognitive functioning. Gluten is one of the biggest culprits. Keep in mind that we’ve told you that if you have gluten intolerance then you have a wheat allergy (but not vice-versa). These negative effects include but are not limited to mood swings, depression, anxiety, and mental disorders.
As the study of wheat allergies itself, there are a lot of theories about why wheat proteins can put you in a bad mood. Some scientists believe that it’s an autoimmune response issue. Some say that it’s because exorphines (polypeptides) bind with morphine receptors in the brain.
No matter which theory you come across, there is one common consensus – wheat allergies, or rather the lack of control of wheat allergies, cause mental and emotional issues.
3. Digestive Problems
Digestive problems are the most noticed symptoms of wheat allergies. They can also be the most problematic symptoms. Some of the more common digestive problems are:
- Abdominal cramps
A lot of these issues stem from the fact that a body with wheat intolerance simply can’t process some or all the proteins in wheat. Except for the abdominal cramping, these other issues aren’t usually painful, but they can wreak havoc on your body if you continue to have the problems.
4. Neurological Problems
One of the most common neurological problems that stems from wheat allergies is headaches. These headaches can range from mild to full-on migraines. Extreme headaches from wheat allergies can be debilitating, keeping you from completing your daily activities.
Other neurological issues include brain fog, insomnia, vertigo, and even attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Work and school performance can suffer and people suffering from uncontrolled wheat allergies may even begin to feel stupid or clumsy.
Fatigue can be one of the most debilitating symptoms of wheat allergies. It’s could be considered a secondary or sub-symptom because it can be caused by mental or physical issues. Of course, the underlying problem would be the wheat allergy, but often other symptoms or a collection of symptoms cause fatigue.
Many studies done on fatigue indicate that in many cases it’s the result of psychosocial issues. From this, it’s safe to say that many of the neurological and mood symptoms attribute to a person feeling fatigued due to wheat allergies. It’s been proven that depression can cause feelings of fatigue, so deducing this theory isn’t a far stretch.
Psychological issues don’t eliminate physical issues as a contributing factor to fatigue. Your body can be dealing with so many problems that all your energy is being used to combat the different issues. It could even be that the wheat allergy is preventing your body from processing the energy from the fuel you’re ingesting (food).
6. Skin Problems
When thinking about skin problems from food allergies, the first thing that comes to mind is a rash. It can be confusing about why something you ingest ends up affecting your skin on the outside so here is a quick explanation.
First, a rash is an indicator that your body is fighting the allergy. Your body will consider the wheat proteins as invading substances. Chemicals called histamines are then released to “get rid of” the wheat proteins. These chemicals cause your capillaries to leak which collects under the skin causing a rash.
In a certain light, a rash from food allergies is a good sign. It means your body is strong enough to get rid of the “invaders”. However, rashes don’t feel good and they don’t look good so the bad outweighs the good.
7. Respiratory Problems
Wheat intolerance is a type of allergy and, like other allergies, can cause a number of respiratory issues.
One example of this is a condition known as Baker’s Asthma. In a study done on bakery workers, it was shown that wheat stimulates epithelial cells that release inflammatory cytokines called Transforming Growth Factors-?1 (TGF-?1). These cytokines peak after just six hours of exposure which is concerning since a typical bakery worker works an eight-hour shift or more.
Inflamed airways can cause secondary symptoms such as:
- Shortness of breath
As you can see, the respiratory problems from wheat allergies can be severe. In fact, they can be so severe that they lead to the next symptom on the list, anaphylaxis.
Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction from food allergies like wheat. It’s a life-threatening condition that requires you to seek medical attention immediately.
Anaphylaxis occurs when your body “overreacts” to the histamine that’s released in your body. You may have multiple areas of your body that are affected all at once and it could be too much for your body to handle alone. Other acute problems that can occur with anaphylaxis include:
- Tongue swelling/inability to swallow
- Closed throat/throat swelling
- Loss of consciousness
As you can see from the symptoms above, the biggest problem with anaphylaxis is that you won’t be able to breathe. That’s why anaphylaxis must be taken care of immediately.
Living With Wheat Allergies
Once you’ve confirmed that you have a wheat allergy, you’ll need to change your diet to avoid eating wheat protein. The most obvious change is to avoid anything with wheat in it. You can also look for gluten-free foods, but keep in mind that these foods may still have other wheat proteins in them. Make sure you read labels thoroughly.
There are a lot of foods that have ingredients with alternative names to wheat as well as pre-processed foods that contain ingredients that secretly have wheat proteins. You should become familiar with them and avoid them also.
Here are a few more common foods that might contain wheat:
- Chicken broth
- Salad dressings
- Veggie burgers
As you can see, many of the foods/ingredients aren’t even grains. Living with a wheat allergy requires a good bit of research and dedication. You should also keep an Epinephrine pen (EpiPen) in case of an anaphylactic emergency. Of course, you should consult your doctor before getting an EpiPen.
Sometimes wheat allergies won’t be obvious, especially because the eight symptoms above can occur from so many other issues. However, the key is paying attention to when the symptoms occur.
Symptoms from wheat allergies often happen in a time range of a few minutes to a few hours after eating the offending foods. The good news is that by knowing the symptoms and how to live a wheat intolerant lifestyle, you’ll be prepared for anything that wheat allergies throws at you.