Understanding Gluten Allergy

Understanding Gluten Allergy

Gluten allergy is an allergic reaction to a protein called gluten. Gluten is found in wheat, rye and barley. Gluten allergy is also called celiac disease. Celiac disease is believed to be hereditary. Gluten allergy damages the small intestine by causing the immune system to attack the small intestine. This can lead to sickness and even death.

What is Gluten?

Gluten is made up of two proteins, gliadin and glutenin, found in grains such as wheat, rye and barley. Gluten is the sticky substance that allows these grains to stick together and form dough. Gluten can be found in many foods such as bread, pasta and cooking oil.

Causes of Gluten Allergy

Gluten allergy is caused by eating foods that contain gluten, such as bread and pasta. The proteins in gluten, gliadin and glutenin, stick to the lining of the small intestine and stimulate the immune system. The immune system then attacks the lining of the small intestine as if it is a harmful organism. Specifically, the immune system attacks the villi of the small intestine and destroys them. Villi are small finger-like protrusions that provide a surface to facilitate absorption of nutrients. Without villi, the body cannot absorb vitamins and nutrients from food, possibly resulting in anemia and osteoporosis.

Symptoms of Gluten Allergy

Signs and symptoms vary amongst people and ages. To pinpoint this allergy, one must look for any of the following symptoms after eating food(s) that contains gluten.

Symptoms of gluten allergy for children are:

  • impaired growth
  • irritability
  • poor muscle tone
  • swollen abdomen
  • abnormal stools
  • poor appetite
  • wasting of muscle
  • poor weight gain
  • extremely thin arms and legs

Symptoms of gluten allergy for adults are:

  • diarrhea
  • abdominal cramping
  • bloating
  • constipation
  • offensive or foul-smelling stools
  • significant weight loss
  • tiredness
  • depression
  • itchy ski
  • problems becoming pregnan
  • bone pain

Other symptoms of gluten allergy include stomachache, stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, skin disorders, asthma, hypertension, headache and anaphylactic shock.


The only treatment is a gluten-free diet. Adhering to a gluten-free diet can reverse any damage caused by gluten. Work with a doctor or a nutritionist to create a gluten-free diet. There are also books and cooking clubs aimed at helping people create gluten-free diets.

Some foods containing gluten are wheat, rye, barley, beer, graham flour, semolina, bulgur, matzo meal, farina, breads, cereals, baking mix, pasta, crackers, cookies, cakes, gravy, candy bars, cooking oil, canned soup, ketchup, some ice creams, mustard, some lunchmeats, canned meat and processed meat.

Vitamins and minerals can be taken to replace those that were lost to gluten allergy. However, vitamins and minerals are only effective when taken after gluten is cut out of the diet.

A tincture or capsule form of echinacea and goldenseal is said to speed healing from gluten allergy after gluten is cut out of the diet. In addition, an herbal remedy called Robert’s Formula, containing echinacea, goldenseal, slippery elm, marshmallow, geranium and some other herbs, is said to speed healing from celiac disease by coating the stomach and lower intestine and allowing them to heal quickly.

People with gluten allergy should also eat a diet rich in fresh meats, fish, rice, soybean, vegetables and fruits.

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