Gluten Allergy : A Scary Diagnosis

When my son was around 2 years old my pediatrician started to suspect that he might have a possible gluten allergy. I, of course, had never heard of this. I didn’t even know what gluten was. It was a scary diagnosis because the more research I did the more I knew this could change my son’s life forever. I was even further terrified by the possibility that it could go beyond a gluten allergy into the realm of celiac disease.

What is Gluten?

There is a rubbery like protein in various grains that is causing a many problems for a growing number of across our country and around our world. This substance has been around for thousands of years, and is a naturally occurring one. This protein is called gluten and is found in wheat, rye, barley and a low level in oats as well. This protein helps bind the dough together, causing it to rise when baked. These grains can cause a gluten allergy in those who are sensitive, yet other proteins in the grains can also cause symptoms as well. There are four primary proteins that are found in gluten-containing grains. These are albumin, globulin, gliadin, and glutenin.

Symptoms of Gluten Allergy

The symptoms from any of these proteins can be quite similar.

Symptoms of gluten allergy can include:

  • abdominal cramps
  • swelling
  • vomiting
  • asthma

Symptoms could potentially be life threatening if you are very sensitive.

Diagnosis and Treatment Options

Often, many people have gone many years with problems from gluten allergy before being properly diagnosed. It is very important to locate a trained professional who is skilled in these types of issues when dealing with gluten allergy. My pediatrician sent me to a specialist to dig into my son’s symptoms further.

A skin prick can sometimes be used to detect an allergy to wheat but a true gluten allergy is more often confirmed through a blood test. Since wheat is found in so many daily food items, it is difficult to find the true culprit of the symptoms sometimes. Yet, with diligence, it can be done. If a gluten reaction is very severe, then the patient should be told to eliminate all gluten-containing products from one’s diet. However, some doctors suggest that if the gluten allergy is minor, that small amounts may be introduced with time. More people agree that an elimination diet is a far better approach.

Gluten Allergy versus Celiac Disease

Gluten allergy should not be confused with gluten intolerance or celiac disease, which is a hereditary disorder and is auto-immune in nature. The gluten actually damages the intestinal lining in this disease, causing food to be improperly absorbed by the body. Celiac disease requires that gluten be eliminated from the diet totally and for life. Celiac disease is more prevalent in certain races and since I am married to an Irish man I thought this could explain why I had never heard of it since I am of Latin descent.

Luckily for us when the dust settled my son was diagnosed with a mild lactose intolerance but the experience opened my eyes to the challenges someone could have if they had a gluten allergy or worse yet Celiac Disease. While living with a gluten allergy or intolerance can be a challenge learning how to manage it through your diet is definitely worth it.

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