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Celiac Disease and Wheat Allergy: Know the Difference

Wheat Allergy Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past decade, you have most likely noticed the emergence of a wide variety of gluten free products. From pancake mixes, to bagels and muffins, to even pastas and sauces. It’s a highly sought-after group of food products due to the increased awareness of wheat’s affect on some people. But, not all digestive problems stemming from wheat are the same. Let’s look at the difference between having actual Celiac disease, or gluten sensitivity, and having a wheat allergy.

Both gluten sensitivity, or celiac disease, and a wheat allergy occur after consumption of wheat. The difference in these conditions, however, is what happens inside your body after you’ve eaten the wheat. Gluten sensitivity is an autoimmune problem, whereas an allergic reaction to wheat is a type of hypersensitivity.

Gluten Sensitivity

Gluten sensitivity is a genetic predisposition to an autoimmune reaction against a specific protein found in wheat products like wheat, barley and rye. Once the protein, gliadin, is introduced into the body, an enzyme causes inflammation in the small bowel. The inflammation then prevents the villi in the small bowel from absorbing nutrients properly. Fat soluble vitamins like A, D, E, and K are no longer absorbed properly. It is important to note that gluten sensitivity is an autoimmune disease, where a patient’s immune system attacks its own body.

The most common symptoms of Gluten Sensitivity are fatigue and diarrhea, however, to see more, click here.

Wheat allergy

Wheat allergy is a type 1 hypersensitivity that occurs when a person’s immune system actively attacks foreign allergens. In this case, the allergens are from wheat products. When a person consumes wheat, it is attacked by a wide variety of host cells such as basophils, mast cells, and immunoglobulins. Dryness, itching and inflammation may occur at the site of the reaction.

If you think you may have one of the following problems stemming from wheat, the best thing to do is consult with the doctors at GI North to determine what next steps will help you eliminate the uncomfortable side effects of eating wheat.

© 2012 GI North Gastroenterology Services. All rights reserved.

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