Health Issues That Are Sometimes Mistaken for Gluten Sensitivity
The protein found in wheat, barley and rye is often blamed for similar but unrelated symptoms.
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Hilary Jericho, MD
Jericho is a pediatric gastroenterologist at the University of Chicago Medical Center who specializes in the treatment of celiac disease.
Benjamin Lebwohl, MD, MS
Lebwohl is a gastroenterologist and Louis and Gloria Flanzer Scholar, Columbia University Medical Center, and director of clinical research at the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University, both in New York City.
Julie Stefanski, MEd, RDN, CSSD, LDN, CDE, FAND
Stefanski is a registered dietitian for Stefanski Nutrition Services in York, Pennsylvania, and a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Guy A. Weiss, MD
Weiss practices general gastroenterology, with particular focus on gluten-associated disorders. He is director of the UCLA Celiac Disease Program and an assistant professor of medicine in the division of digestive diseases at David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. He is also the editor of “Diagnosis and Management of Gluten-Associated Disorders: A Clinical Casebook,” published by Springer.
Could something else be causing your symptoms?
Technically speaking, you could have a problem specifically with wheat – such as a wheat allergy – but not specifically with gluten, which is found in other foods that don’t contain wheat, such as barley and rye. There’s even debate among clinicians and researchers about whether or not the umbrella term non-celiac gluten sensitivity (used to broadly describe what’s believed to be a sensitivity to gluten when a person doesn’t have celiac disease) should be reframed – and renamed – to wheat intolerance syndrome or other alternatives.
If you are allergic to wheat, symptoms such as hives, itchy or red eyes, swelling in the mouth, abdominal issues or difficulty breathing tend to appear more rapidly and should be treated with antihistamines, epinephrine and/or a visit to the doctor.
But however it’s couched, there’s general agreement that patients need to take time to talk with their health professionals to really hone in on what’s causing their symptoms, instead of just taking matters into their own hands and making drastic dietary changes.