Wheat Intolerance vs Wheat Allergy
Wheat intolerances are much more common than wheat allergies. A wheat intolerance means your digestive system can't break down wheat-containing foods; it leads to gastric distress and other uncomfortable conditions. If you fall into the 15 to 20 percent of the U.S. population that suffers from wheat intolerance, you probably lack the enzymes necessary to break down wheat.
The symptoms of wheat intolerance are similar to the symptoms of other digestive system disruptions, making wheat intolerance difficult to diagnose. The symptoms can take hours to develop and days to go away, and you feel miserable the entire time. Symptoms of wheat intolerance include
General aches and pains
Wheat allergies are a different story. Less than 1 percent of the U.S. population has an immediate allergic reaction to wheat consumption. Children are more commonly diagnosed with wheat allergies than adults are.
When you're allergic to wheat, your body mistakenly views one or more of the wheat proteins as something that's going to harm you. Your immune system produces antibodies to fight off the proteins, causing the allergic reaction. Symptoms include
Abdominal cramps, nausea, and vomiting
Asthma and restrictive breathing
Irritation of the mouth and throat
Itchy and watery eyes
An allergic reaction can occur in only a few minutes after you eat wheat. So if you suspect you're allergic to wheat, get tested by an allergist. A test for antibodies helps diagnose your wheat allergy and indicate where to go from there.
Although the situation is rare, wheat allergies can become life-threatening if anaphylaxis occurs. Anaphylaxis is an overreaction of your immune system to an allergen (in this case, wheat) that affects your whole body, possibly sending you into shock and causing labored breathing.
If you have a family or personal history of anaphylaxis or other allergic reactions, you should always have two injectable doses of adrenaline (a common form is epinephrine) with you at all times. The symptoms of anaphylaxis affect people differently. This list includes all those symptoms so you know what to look out for:
Change in skin color
Elevated heart rate
Nausea and vomiting