How to Identify a Gluten Allergy

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Why ‘gluten’ needs avoidance?

For some, gluten containing foods or food derivatives can cause several medical conditions, which can have both short term and long-term consequences. Gluten allergy, gluten intolerance, and celiac disease are some of these complications, which will have its own set of manifestations at varying intensities. However, celiac disease is the most dangerous of the lot although other conditions can also make life difficult, frustrating, and sometimes depressing.

For those who suffer from the above conditions, absolute avoidance of gluten is necessary to prevent manifestations or long-term sequel, which can lead to life threatening events among certain individuals. Therefore, knowing which foods contain gluten and avoiding them at all times becomes part of life for those individuals and for their caregivers.

What is ‘gluten allergy’?

As mentioned earlier, there are several types of gluten related disorders and among them; ‘gluten allergy’ is only one entity. Similar to any other allergic reaction, the protein ‘gluten’ will launch a hypersensitivity reactions that activates histamine releasing cells such as the ‘mast cells’, giving rise to cascade of events throughout the body. These allergic manifestations would be rather acute and will subside without any residual effects, once the histamine reaction subsides. However, in certain instances, it can end up in severe anaphylactic reactions, which may cause life-threatening insults.

In contrast, ‘gluten intolerance’ and ‘celiac disease’ are both subtle in its manifestations although they can be more dangerous in the long run. The underlying problem would be, the overly active antibodies against the gluten protein, which may damage the intestinal surface that is essential for absorbing nutrients and for proper digestion of food. Thus, the manifestations seen in these two conditions will be different to that of ‘gluten allergy’ and in all instances, the reactions will have a link with gluten containing food intake.

What are the symptoms of ‘gluten allergy’?

When considering the most dangerous manifestations of gluten allergy, which is an anaphylactic reaction, characteristic symptoms would include, breathing difficulties, chest pain, severe abdominal pain, and other manifestations usually seen in an allergic reaction. Furthermore, if urgent medical treatment is not given, they may collapse and go into a comma. Thus, it is prudent to treat persons with even the mildest of reactions as early as possible in order to prevent an occurrence of ‘anaphylactic shock’.

Focusing on other allergic manifestations, appearance of hives or raised red skin patches, itching of the skin and the eyes, swelling of the face, lips, tongue and the throat, watery red eyes and sneezing can be highlighted. However, these allergic manifestations should not be considered as passerby symptoms and starting of antihistamine medications could address most of these symptoms effectively.

What is the ‘take home’ message in detecting gluten allergy?

As ‘gluten allergy’ can manifest at any age, one should pay close attention to allergic symptoms and the foods that they take prior to its manifestation because the symptoms may have a link with gluten containing foods. At the same time, if detected of having an allergy to gluten, one should take every measure possible to avoid gluten throughout life.

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