Know the Difference: Wheat Allergy vs. Celiac Disease

There's always more to learn when it comes to understanding food allergies. Our "Know the Difference" blog series tackles some of the most commonly misunderstood terms and concepts about food allergies and food allergy management. Read on - you just might learn something!

Wheat allergy vs. Celiac Disease

A wheat allergy should not be confused with “gluten intolerance” or celiac disease. Wheat allergy is a food allergy, which is an overreaction of the immune system to a specific food protein. When the food protein is ingested, it can trigger an allergic reaction that may include a range of symptoms from mild symptoms (rashes, hives, itching, swelling, etc.) to severe symptoms (trouble breathing, wheezing, loss of consciousness, etc.). A food allergy can be potentially fatal.

Celiac disease (also known as celiac sprue), which affects the small intestine, is caused by an abnormal immune reaction to gluten. IgE, the antibody responsible for life-threatening reactions (anaphylaxis) does not play a role in this disorder. Usually diagnosed by a gastroenterologist, it is a digestive disease that can cause serious complications, including malnutrition and intestinal damage, if left untreated. Individuals with celiac disease must avoid gluten, found in wheat, rye, barley and sometimes oats. Learn more about celiac disease>

People who are allergic to wheat often may tolerate other grains. However, about 20 percent of children with wheat allergy also are allergic to other grains. Be sure to ask your doctor whether foods containing barley, rye, or oats are safe for you or your child to eat.