Wheat is a common food allergen, especially in children.
What are the reactions associated with wheat?
The term allergy to wheat corresponds to immediate reactions to wheat which involve IgE antibodies, and that are characterized by skin, respiratory, digestive and sometimes cardiovascular symptoms (see the section on Food allergy). Other reactions involving the immune system and particularly the gastrointestinal tract are related to wheat, especially celiac disease. This is caused by gluten, present in wheat and other cereals, and is characterized by abdominal pain, diarrhea and weight loss.
How does one avoid wheat?
As for most other food allergies, treatment always begins with avoidance. In addition to informing those around you and taking precautions to avoid contamination, you must attentively read all food labels, since the wheat protein can be found in many different foods. Other names can be used to designate wheat: bulgur, couscous, atta, spelt, gluten, meal, kamut, seitan, semolina, bran, triticale, etc. (see the site of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency for a more exhaustive list). When wheat is avoided, you must ensure that the elements of nutritional value of wheat are provided for by other foods in the diet.
What is the evolution of a wheat allergy?
In the majority of cases, an allergy to wheat (IgE mediated, or of the anaphylactic kind) disappears, often before adulthood.
Nha Uyen Nguyen-Luu, MD FRCPC
(translation: Andrew Moore, MD FRCPC)