Previous Entry Share Next Entry
What is the difference between a Wheat Allergy, Gluten Intolerance, Gluten Sensitivity and Celiac Sp
Rain Forest
jennifleur wrote in celiac
What is the difference between a Wheat Allergy, Gluten Intolerance, Gluten Sensitivity and Celiac Sprue?


A wheat allergy is the body’s abnormal autoimmune response to a certain protein component of wheat; it’s exhibited by a severe sudden onset allergic reaction. Usual symptoms are immediate coughing, asthma, breathing difficulties, and/or projectile vomiting. It can cause life-threatening responses in allergic people.

In severe cases there is an anaphylactic response where the sufferer’s tissues become hypersensitive and swell up to two or three times their normal size. A swollen nose is a classic allergic symptom. Histamines have caused the internal tissue cells to retain excess fluids. While a stuffy nose is a nuisance it is not always serious.

An anaphylactic response in the tissues of the tongue, mouth and throat can be much more serious. These hypersensitive tissues swell up so rapidly that they obstruct breathing. These allergy sufferers gasp for air and can suffocate and die if not given emergency treatment (on site an Epi pen is used, at the hospital it’s treated with adrenalin). Peanut allergies receive the most notoriety, as they can be lethal in microscopic doses.

There are several classifications for typical immune response allergic reactions:
– IgE mediated (classic allergy - tests are available)
– Non-IgE mediated
– Type III - a serum sickness like reaction
– Type IV - a contact dermatitis type reaction

Fortunately Food Allergy is rather rare. Less than 1% of people suffer true Food Allergies. However, because Food Allergy is more visible than Food Intolerance – it is better diagnosed. A true Wheat allergy is even more rare (less than 1/2 % of population). These people must observe a strict Wheat-free diet to remain healthy.


Food intolerance's are much more common than true food allergies but are harder to diagnose because they can mask themselves as allergies or other illnesses.

Food intolerance is an adverse reaction to food that does not involve the body's immune system. Generally food intolerance is an inability to properly digest certain foods. In some cases food passes right through the body before digestion is complete. There are many types of food intolerance's.

– Food Poisoning: An incomplete digestion of food caused by ingredients containing harmful microbes, such as bacteria or toxins.
– Histamine Toxicity: Histamines naturally occur higher in some foods like cheese, wine and tuna. They can cause an allergic like reaction in those sensitive to histamines.
– Lactose Intolerance: Our digestive systems secrete an enzyme, Lactase that breaks down the sugar component of milk, Lactose. (Casein is the protein component of milk). In some individuals there is not enough Lactase and the bacteria in the gut use the dairy sugars to cause bloating, gas and sometimes diarrhea.
– Food Additives: Another type of reaction is to additives put in food to enhance flavor, provide color, or protect against microbial growth; MSG and Sulfites are good examples.
– Psychological causes: A certain food can be a psychological trigger associated with an unpleasant past experience. When that food is eaten, even years later, it can cause gastrointestinal distress.
– Other causes: There are other conditions that can cause allergy like symptoms such as ulcers or cancer in the upper GI tract.
– Wheat Intolerance: The sensitivity isn't to the gluten, but to other aspects of the wheat. Other gluten grains can often be tolerated.
– Gluten Intolerance: Often a misnomer for Celiac Sprue, see definition below. (A person may also test negative for CD and still be gluten intolerant, there is debate in the medical community as to if this is then early stage CD or a reaction triggered by some other cause, though still directly related to gluten.)

Fortunately most food intolerant people recover fully when the offending food is avoided.


There are also groups of people who appear to have antibodies to gliadin, the molecule (found in the gluten protein) that is toxic to people with CD. It is possible that the normal population, without any disease, can have antibodies to gliadin.


CD is a genetic hereditary disorder of the immune system. The ingestion of the protein molecule in wheat, known as gluten leads to damage of the mucosa (lining) of the small intestine. This results in malabsorption of nutrients and vitamins such as proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals, and, in some cases, water and bile salts. CD is the result of IgA and IgG antibody responses to gluten. It is important to differentiate between CD, mediated by IgA and IgG antibodies, and wheat allergy, which is mediated by IgE antibodies.

The disease is permanent, and damage to the small intestine will occur every time gluten is consumed, regardless whether symptoms are present or not. It has been reported that as little as 0.1 grams of ingested gluten can trigger symptoms.

The onset of noticeable symptoms of CD seems to be dependent on the following: exposure to wheat, as when an infant is weaned (introduction of solids); predisposition through family history; and some kind of "trigger" mechanism which may include physical or emotional stress, trauma such as surgery or pregnancy, over-exposure to wheat, viral infection, other diseases, and even antibiotics.

The “cure” is a life long gluten free diet.

Sources:,,,, Celiac Disease, A Hidden Epidemic by P. Green MD and R. Jones


Log in