There is an old saying, “He who will have a cake out of the wheat must tarry the grinding.” A truer proverb may never have been said, but what of those who must have the wheat out of the cake?
To say wheat allergies are no fun may be an understatement. Wheat is a main ingredient in some of the most beloved foods in America including donuts, cookies, cakes, muffins, crackers, waffles and pretzels, hot dogs, and ice cream. That sure limits the menu at baseball games. I guess this is what was meant by “tarrying the grinding.” Here are some of the things that can help to recognize, diagnose, and treat this troubling condition.
Symptoms of A Wheat Allergy
A wheat allergy is the result of a response that causes the immune system to attack wheat proteins because it falsely recognizes them as harmful substances. Symptoms include nasal congestion, eczema, hives, asthma, swelling of the mouth or throat, watery, itchy eyes, diarrhea, vomiting and bloating of the stomach. Anaphylaxis also may occur causing tightness of the throat, chest pain and difficulty breathing, a weak pulse, bluish flesh, and a possibly fatal drop in blood pressure. Although some adults have wheat allergies, they are more common in children and are usually resolved by the age of 5.
There are various tests to diagnose wheat allergy. In many cases, patients are asked to keep a diary of the foods they eat, noting the symptoms. Those experiencing symptoms of wheat allergies will be asked to eliminate wheat and wheat products from their diet, then slowly reintroduce them at intervals. This, along with the food diary, will help to pinpoint the problem-causing foods, which can then be replaced.
Another way of revealing a wheat allergy is food challenge testing, which usually takes place at a hospital or clinic. The patient ingests capsules containing suspected allergens. The doses are gradually increased while symptoms are monitored to determine whether an allergic reaction takes place.
The skin prick test consists of diluted food drops placed on an individual’s back or arm. If itching or redness occurs, the test is considered positive. Blood tests can also be used to detect antibodies indicating food allergies.
Although the recent amount of attention to gluten sensitivity has increased the emergence of wheat-free products, wheat proteins may still be difficult to avoid. Antihistimines can eliminate or lower allergy symptoms by lowering the immune system and should be taken after being exposed to wheat. This medication should be used only under professional guidance.
Adrenaline, or epinephrine is often used in an anaphylactic emergency. Patients who are at high risk of anaphylaxis are instructed to have two injectable doses of the treatment on hand. Auto-injector pens open airways, helping the patient to breathe more easily and restoring low blood pressure.
If there is hay fever, asthma and allergy in the family history, the risk of developing a wheat allergy increases. Young children and infants are more likely targets because their digestive and immune systems are not fully developed. Exercise has been known to trigger responses to wheat product and may lead to anaphylaxis.
If you have, or have had wheat allergies, we would love to hear how you “tarry the grinding.” Let us know how you deal with them. We’d love to hear it.