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Wheat is a grain which is a common component of our western diet. A few years ago anyone excluding wheat faced a difficult task trying to find alternatives, now there is much more awareness and consideration into special diets.
Wheat allergy is caused by an IgE reaction to one or more of the proteins found in the wheat grain. Wheat is part of the grass family Triticeae.
There are four types of wheat proteins these are: Globulins; Albumins; Glutenins and Gliadins. Symptoms of wheat allergy (IgE mediated) may include rhinitis, asthma, urticaria, angiodema and conjunctivitis. Also loose faeces/abdominal pain and skin conditions such as eczema (which may develop up to up to 72 hours after consuming wheat). Some people are also affected with symptoms when they exercise, people working in bakeries may develop symptoms due to inhaling flour.
Sensitivity to wheat (and gluten) can also produce symptoms in some individuals which means they have to avoid these substances. For a wheat free diet you will need to make sure you check all ingredient labels (be aware of hidden wheat which can be found in many convenience products such as ready meals, sauces, etc). Due to customer demand and increased need there are many ranges available in supermarkets and health food shops which include wheat free flours/cakes/biscuits/frozen foods. This has made a valuable contribution and extended many peoples’ choices who require special diets enabling them to adapt recipes and use alternative flours and products. Wheat free cooking is a challenge however with practice and trial and error it can become easier!
Gluten (found in wheat, oats, rye and barley) gives elasticity to baked goods and the ‘Chewy’ texture of many breads and products. Gluten is associated with Coeliac Disease which causes, symptoms of diarrhea, windy bloating, nausea, tiredness, pale offensive faeces; absorption difficulties which may lead to poor growth in babies and weight loss in adults.
Some people with Coeliac will develop Dermatitis Herpetiformis which has symptoms of severe skin rash/tiny blisters and damage to the intestinal lining and sometimes diarrhea. An accurate diagnosis by your doctor should be sought; some special dietary products are available on prescription (ask your dietician/pharmacist for a list.
To help you identify wheat/gluten containing products a full list should be obtained from your dietician.