There are many misconceptions about a wheat allergy and celiac disease. These misconceptions lead to incorrect self-diagnosis and improper treatment. Allow us to explain the difference between wheat allergies and celiac disease.
Wheat Allergy Details
An allergic reaction to wheat occurs when your immune system identifies a protein found in wheat to be harmful. The four classes of proteins found in wheat that could cause an allergy include albumin, globulin, gliadin, and gluten. If your immune system identifies that protein to be a threat, it will produce antibodies to force the protein out of your body (i.e. sneezing, watery eyes, or coughing), but other symptoms may occur like nausea, stomach pain, itchiness, and, in severe cases, anaphylaxis.
The two main risk factors for developing a wheat allergy are age and family history. You are more likely to develop this allergy if you are young and/or have a family member who deals with this condition, as well. A skin test or blood test can determine if you are suffering from a wheat allergy. Through immunotherapy, Dr. Brauer can teach your immune system not to overreact to the specific protein that is causing the frustrating symptoms. Although some people outgrow their wheat allergy, why take a chance? Immunotherapy is proven to be an effective and permanent treatment option.
Celiac Disease Details
Celiac disease is a chronic, autoimmune disease that negatively affects the small intestine. Symptoms will occur when a person eats gluten which is one of the four protein classes found in wheat. To develop celiac disease, a person must have:
- The genetic predisposition for the disease.
- An event that triggers the disease (i.e. stress, trauma, surgery, environmental factors).
- Gluten in their diet.
Once the genetic predisposition is activated, the villi in the small intestine lining will become damaged when the person consumes gluten. The villi are small, fingerlike projections that help pass fluids and nutrients. But, when villi are damaged, they will lay flat instead of upright which does not allow them to play their very important role. This results in celiac disease symptoms such as malabsorption, diarrhea, bloating, gas, fatigue, weight loss, and abdominal pain.
The only way to treat celiac disease is by avoiding gluten altogether. Once diagnosed and started the gluten-free journey, the small intestine’s villi will begin to heal and stand upright again which allows it to absorb nutrients. Symptoms will dissipate, but this is a life-long disease that does not have a medication option for treatment.