Gluten allergy is an abnormal immune system reaction to the proteins found in wheat. Gluten is composed of the sticky storage proteins from foods processed from wheat, barley and rye and other similar grains. Gluten gives elasticity to dough, helping it to rise and to keep its shape, and frequently giving the final product a chewy texture. Gluten is the composite of a prolamin and a glutelin, which exist, conjoined with starch, in the endosperm of various grass-related grains. A significant number of humans suffer from gluten sensitivity, so many foods are now labeled to clarify whether they contain gluten or not. It is estimated that somewhere between 0.5 and 1 percent of people in the United States have gluten allergy or Celiac disease. This medical condition is characterized as an abnormal immune reaction to partially digested gliadin, a protein in gluten.
The inner walls of the small intestines are lined with small hair-like projections known as villi. The main role of villi is to absorb vitamins, minerals and other nutrients from the food. The inflammatory reaction damages the villi, affecting their capability to absorb the nutrients. The surface of the small intestine appears like a plush carpet, with bald patches of exposed wall. Nutrients from the food are excreted and eliminated with stool instead of being absorbed. This malabsorption has serious and far-reaching consequences leading to vitamin deficiencies and nourishment deficiencies in patients' nervous system, brain, bones and other organs.
Symptoms of gluten allergy
Symptoms of gluten allergy usually vary from one patient to another. Sometimes, the allergy is completely asymptomatic, and patients do not experience any typical gastrointestinal symptoms. The most frequent complaints are intermittent diarrhea, abdominal pain and bloating. Gluten allergy is hard to diagnose as in many cases the symptoms resemble those of irritable bowel syndrome, gastric ulcers, Crohn's disease, parasite infections, anemia, skin disorders or a nervous condition. As any other autoimmune disease, this allergy may manifest in various apparently unassociated symptoms such asirritability, depression, anemia, upset stomach, joint pain, muscle cramps, skin rash, mouth sores, dental and bone disorders and tingling in the limbs.
In many cases the symptoms of gluten allergy develop as a result of malabsorption and include weight loss, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, gas and bloating, persistent fatigue, general weakness, foul-smelling or grayish stools that may be fatty or oily, stunned growth in children, osteoporosis, and anemia.
Treatment for gluten allergy
The best way to treat gluten allergy is to avoid exposure to wheat proteins. This is relatively easy to do by reading product labels carefully and avoiding foods that contain wheat proteins. Emergency medical care is essential for anyone who experiences an anaphylactic reaction to wheat.