What is it….
A gluten allergy or food allergy is a difficulty with digesting particular food/s which leads your body have a unpleasent physical reactions to them.
Gluten allergies are not a gluten intolerances or Coeliac disease. For further infomation on Gluten intolerances here and Coeliac disease here.
Like most allergies, reactions can range in severity from very mild to extremely severe. Allergy reactions can be very dangerous and can for some people be so severe they can cause anaphylaxis which can be fatal.
Food allergies are divided into 3 catagories –
IgE-mediate food allergies– the most common type, triggered by the immune system producing an antibody called immunoglobulin E (IgE). Symptoms occur a few seconds or minutes after eating. There’s a greater risk of anaphylaxis with this type of allergy. Gluten allergy is a IgE-mediated reaction.
Non-IgE-mediate food allergies– these allergic reactions aren’t caused by immunoglobulin E, but by other cells in the immune system. This type of allergy is often difficult to diagnose as symptoms take much longer to develop (up to several hours)
Mixed non-IgE and IgE-mediate food allergies– some people may experience symptoms from both types
There is also Oral allergy syndrom – a allergic reaction within the mouth including itchiness and swelling immediatly after eating raw or fresh fruit and vegetables. These reactions are not often severe and can be managed by thoroughly cooking the fruit and vegetables before eating.
There are several allergens people tend to be allergic too, this does not mean you can’t have an allergic reaction to other food items. A gluten allergy is recognised as one of the 14 main allergens.
Any food allergy reaction must be investigated further by a medical proffesional.
Like most gastrointestinal (GI) issues symptoms can differ between people and can range from mild to severe.
Some can suffer milder symptoms and gluten allergies can be diagnosed whilst investigating another issues. Even with the mildest of symptoms treatment maybe required.
Gluten allergies can also be diagnosed and the cause of other symptoms seemily not related , for example skin issues.
IgE-meditated and non-IgE-meditated symptoms….
IgE-mediated symptoms usually present within minutes of digesting a allergen as non-IgE-medicated sysmptoms can develop over several days both can include-
- GI reactions – including diarrhoea, stomach pains and cramps and vomiting
- Skin reactions – hives, rashes, itchy skin and eyes, sore and reddened eyes, changes in skin texture and itching and/swelling of the mouth
- Respitory reactions – horseness, wheezing, throat tightness and/or swelling and hayfever reactions
Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction which can cause a swollen mouth/tongue/throat leading to difficulties breating, a tightening of the chest again restricting breathing, dizziness and lightheadedness which can lead to colap and at time can be fatal.
Anaphylaxix is a medical emergancy and should be treated quickly. Some people who suffer with anaphylaxis reactions carry a medication in the form of a autoinjector commonly known as a EpiPen. This can aid in managing the reaction untill further medical support can be gathered. If you believe someone is suffering a anaphylaxis reaction you should call 999 for medical support.
Please click here for further infomation Anaphylaxis.
If you believe you are having issues with gluten please seek medical advice as soon as you can for investigations.
When you visit your GP you must make sure you tell them everything; small details you may not believe are important maybe helpful in diagnosis.
Initally GP may suggest a food elimination diet if your symptoms are not to severe. This is where you will be asked to eliminate foods that could be potentially causing issues from your diet for 2 to 6 weeks.
Once your symptoms have dissapeared you will be asked to re-introduce the foods one at a time and document any reactions.
You may be refered to an allergy clinic if the above test is unsuccsessful or you reactions are needing further investgations.
The clinic may offer several tests including a skin prick test. This is a test where your skin is pricked and a tiny amount of an allergen is placed onto the skin pricked area.
You will be asked to return to the clinic to assess the skin area for reactions. The skin prick test can cause anaphylaxsis reactions if the reaction is severe.
You may also be offered a blood test, from the allergy clinic or GP to measure the amount of allergic antibodies in your blood.
There are home testing kits avalible; however healthcare proffesional like myself will always advice to attend your GP or allergy clinic for diagnosis over home testing kits.
After the results….
There are 2 ways to manage food allergies-
You maybe offered antihystemines to manage allergy symptoms are mild to moderate.
Those how have anaphylaxis reactions will be prescribed adrealine normally as a EpiPen.
There is currently no cure for gluten allergies and the most succsesful ways to manage them is remove gluten from your diet.
If you are having to restrict your diet due to food allergies it is suggested that you speak to a dietitian as some allergens stopped may impact your health.
Like all food allergies, intolerances or Coeliacs dieases label checking is super important. Knowing what ingredents are in your foods will help manage symptoms.
Be aware of the additives and extras added to pre-prepared foods and the statment “may contain”. “May contains” does not guarentee cross ontamination has occured therefor may contain gluten.
“May contains” should always be avoid if you have severe reaction.
FYI- Be aware also of vegan items. There is no legal definition of vegan. Therefor items labled as vegan may contain dairy products.
“Under EU law, any pre-packed food or drink sold in the UK must clearly state on the label if it contains any of these 14 ingredients that can cause an allergy”
Allergens are now often highlighted in bold but not always.
Find out more about what is gluten here and how do I know is something gluten free here.