Living Wheat-Free For Dummies
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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

  • Constipation

  • Diarrhea

  • Eczema

  • Fatigue

  • Gas

  • General aches and pains

  • Headaches

  • Mood swings

  • Stomach bloating

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

  • Anaphylaxis

  • Asthma and restrictive breathing

  • Coughing

  • Diarrhea

  • Hives

  • Irritation of the mouth and throat

  • Itchy and watery eyes

  • Sinus congestion

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:

  • Breathing complications

  • Change in skin color

  • Chest pain

  • Difficulty swallowing

  • Dizziness

  • Elevated heart rate

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Skin rash

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book authors:

Rusty Gregory has a master’s degree in kinesiology and runs a personal training studio. He is an active contributor to, an emerging leader in publishing health news for consumers, and is the author of Self-Care Reform: How to Discover Your Own Path to Good Health. Alan Chasen has a degree in kinesiology and has run a personal training studio since 1989. He advises his clients on exercise, proper nutrition, and general well-being.

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