There is a lot of news these days about gluten. Whether it is a gluten intolerance, gluten allergy, or gluten sensitivity it seems as if going “gluten free” is the new trend. But what is gluten? Is it really bad for you? How common is a gluten allergy and should you really remove it from your diet?
Gluten is a protein that is found in grains including wheat, barley, rye, and oats. These grains are a good source of nutrition and natural energy for children and adults.
Approximately 1 percent of people have an inherited intolerance to gluten that can cause severe stomach aches, bloating, and flatulence due to malabsorption. The resulting malabsorption of nutrients can lead to other problems including anemia, vitamin deficiencies, and osteoporosis. This condition is known as Celiac Disease. A blood test must be done in order to diagnose the disease, followed by an intestinal biopsy to confirm it.
A true gluten allergy involves a systemic allergic reaction and is completely different from Celiac Disease. In general, a gluten allergy can cause anything from mild to severe reactions such as hives, swelling of the mouth, and potentially a drop in blood pressure. This is typically seen in children and usually outgrown. There are some instances when a wheat allergy can linger, but this is uncommon.
It’s important to remember that gluten is an important nutrient found in grains used for many common foods. In general, unless you suffer from Celiac Disease or a true gluten allergy, you may not benefit from removing these foods from your diet. Only a qualified health practitioner can make a definitive diagnosis and point you on the right path for which foods to avoid. If you are having symptoms and suspect you have a gluten allergy, you should contact an allergist for further testing.
Ankmalika Gupta Louis, M.D. is an allergist and immunologist with Hoag Medical Group. She practices at the Newport Beach location and treats both children and adults. For appointments or more information, visit HoagMedicalGroup.com or call 949-791-3202.