Wheat Allergy and Celiac Disease: Understanding the Difference and Getting the Correct Diagnosis

Although a gluten-free diet has become merely a lifestyle choice for many, it is a necessity for people suffering from a wheat allergy or celiac disease. The symptoms of the two conditions can be caused by ingesting wheat, yet the health consequences are different in both cases. This article will explain the difference between the two diseases and how a diagnosis is reached. 

1.    Wheat Allergy

A wheat allergy is most common in children. It is a reaction of the immune system to harmless substances found in wheat. In the majority of cases, a wheat allergy disappears as the child grows up. If an allergen is ingested, a range of symptoms may occur, such as nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, irritation of the mouth and throat, hives and rash, nasal congestion, eye irritation, difficulty with breathing. The symptoms may be mild or serious, even life-threatening. If you suffer from a severe wheat allergy, your doctor may prescribe an epinephrine auto-injector, which will counteract potentially deadly symptoms. 

2.    Celiac Disease

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder, which,  if left untreated, can cause severe intestinal damage and malnutrition. The immune system of a celiac disease sufferer responds to gluten by attacking the digestive system. Children typically have some of the following symptoms: abdominal bloating and gas, chronic diarrhea, constipation, a pale, smelling stool, stomach pain, nausea, and vomiting. As a result of malnutrition, children with celiac disease have a short stature, irritable mood, and a tendency to lose weight. Adults are more likely to experience a different set of symptoms: fatigue, anemia, depression or anxiety, osteoporosis, joint pain, headaches, canker sores in the mouth, infertility or frequent miscarriages, irregularities in the menstrual cycle, and tingling in the hands and feet. 

3.    Diagnosis

It is difficult to diagnose celiac disease on your own, as the symptoms may be signs of other conditions. If you suspect you suffer either from a wheat allergy or celiac disease, you should consult your doctor, who will run appropriate tests (a blood test or skin prick test). Remember not to start a gluten-free diet before seeing your doctor, as this could skew the results.

The symptoms of both a wheat allergy and celiac disease may be caused by ingesting wheat. However, the symptoms in each case are different and have different consequences for your health. If you or your child experience any of the symptoms described above, you should consult a health professional, who can establish the correct diagnosis.


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