The problem of gluten intolerance is quite common among the population and you too may be a victim to it. Gluten is a protein most commonly found in wheat. This is the component of the wheat which makes the dough rise and the bread chewy. There are various grades of gluten intolerance. You may be able to eat little quantities without any trouble or you may develop serious problems by eating gluten. You need to understand whether you have gluten intolerance or gluten allergy. Understanding this distinction can help you work out the best diet for your health.
What is gluten allergy?
An allergy is a reaction to a food where the body offers an immunological response. If you have gluten allergy, chemical changes will occur in your body in response to ingestion of gluten. They may also be triggered by using cosmetics containing gluten.
Here are some important facts that you should know about gluten allergy:
- When you ingest any food containing gluten and you have gluten allergy, your body will begin to release antibodies. This is a common occurrence in case of any food allergies including gluten.
- When you ingest gluten for the first time, your body releases immunoglobulin E or IgE. These antibodies circulate in your body and attach themselves to mast cells located in nose, skin, throat, abdomen etc. When you ingest gluten after this, the mast cells release histamines. These cause allergic reactions in those parts of the body.
- The common symptoms of gluten allergy are rashes, hives, eczema, swelling of tissues, trouble in breathing etc. In extreme cases, gluten allergies can lead to drop in the blood pressure and even death. However, these allergic reactions can occur in response to many other factors. So, you need to be sure that you are actually allergic to gluten.
What is gluten intolerance?
Intolerance to any food is that where your stomach suffers if you eat that food. In most cases, you can tolerate a small amount of the food. Gluten intolerance is thus a condition where you cannot eat foods containing gluten.
Here are the major facts regarding gluten intolerance:
- Gluten intolerance is not an uncommon condition. In this situation, you will not be able to eat foods containing gluten, though you may be able to tolerate small amounts now and then.
- If you have gluten intolerance and eat gluten, this will trigger an immunological response in your body. Your body mistakes gluten for a harmful substance. So, it releases chemicals to fight this enemy.
- These chemicals attack the villi in your small intestine. Looking like finger like projections, the villi play an important part in the digestion of food. They are rich in blood vessels which absorb the nutrients of the foods being processed by the small intestine.
- When the chemicals attack the villi, they are gradually destroyed. The finger like shape becomes flat and rounded, thereby decreasing the surface area. This inhibits the process of digestion and absorption of essential nutrients.
- So, if you suffer from gluten intolerance, you will have digestive troubles and other symptoms like gas, bloating, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal cramp.
Understanding gluten intolerance and allergies
Here are some points of distinctions to help you differentiate between gluten intolerance and allergy:
- Gluten allergy is like any other food allergy. You react to the taste or even touch of the substance. Your body releases histamines leading to extreme symptoms like breathing trouble, change in blood pressure, swollen tongue etc.
- However, gluten intolerance is unlike food intolerance. In case you are intolerant of a food, your body does not have any chemical reaction; you simply cannot digest it. So, you will not have any trouble touching or smelling it.
- But in case of gluten intolerance, the body does have a chemical and immunological reaction.
- Your blood releases certain substances which attack the villi of your smaller intestine. In extreme cases this can lead to a number of complications including cancer.
- If you are gluten intolerant, you may be able to eat a little bit gluten, but it is better not to take the risk. Even the little amount will add up over time and may cause serious complications.
- It is not possible for you to find out if you have gluten intolerance or allergy. It is up to your doctor to do that. Certain blood tests and skin prick tests are necessary. Your doctor may even put you on an elimination diet to determine what allergies are suffering for. Here, you start with only a few food and then add one item at a time to determine which ones are triggering the allergic reactions.
Whether you have an allergy or intolerance, if you have any problem, you should completely eliminate gluten from your diet because in long term it can lead to severe complications.