Gluten allergy is characterized by body’s abnormal immune system reaction to proteins found in wheat. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, and in most grain-based products. This protein actually gives elasticity to dough, helping it to rise and keep its shape. Gluten is found in wheat, rye, barley, cereals, breads, pasta, and similar products. Gluten allergy is a widespread condition that affects the lives of many people. Government regulations now demand that foods need to be labeled to clarify whether they contain gluten or not. According to the general statistics, about 0.5 to 1.0 percent of population in the United States have the gluten allergy or associated Celiac disease. Celiac disease is similar to gluten allergy and defined as an abnormal immune reaction to partially digested gladin, which is a protein found in gluten.
Causes of gluten allergy
To understand why the symptoms of gluten allergies occur in some people, one should first understand that the inner walls of small intestines have a lining covered with small hair-like projections, medically known as villi. The small intestine is the place where 90% of digestion takes place. The villi’s role in digestion is to absorb the nutrients from the food. If a person is allergic to gluten, the body will mistake the identity of this compound for a dangerous foreign object and generate the antibodies to protect the system against it. Once the body has developed an allergy-causing antibody to gluten, the immune system will remain sensitive to it. Whenever a person gets in contact with gluten, the immune system will attack it and the symptoms of allergy will occur.
In contact with gluten, the walls of the small intestine will become inflamed and will gradually destroy the villi. When this happens, the surface of the intestines will become covered with bald patches of the exposed wall. On these places, the villi will not be present and nutrients, that are supposed to be absorbed, will be excreted and eliminated with the stool. This condition may have serious consequences and result in malabsorption.
Symptoms of gluten allergy
Some patients allergic to gluten will not even notice they are having this health problem. For others, the condition will manifest in the upper respiratory tract problems, extreme and chronic fatigue, mouth ulcers, anemia, weight loss, diarrhea, constipation, bloating in the abdominal region, depression, skin problems, headaches, asthma and irritability. In many cases, the symptoms of malabsorption and severe weight loss will appear, accompanied by gastro-intestinal problems such as diarrhea, abdominal cramps, gas, bloating, and foul-smelling or grayish stools that may be fatty or oily.