Gluten Free Diet: All You Need To Know About Wheat Allergy And Coeliac Disease Symptoms

Once upon a time, gluten free food was only available in health food stores. Now, it seems to be cropping up here, there and everywhere, with restaurants, supermarkets and bakeries all offering a range of products.

So is gluten intolerance becoming more common, or has gluten free food simply become fashionable?

To get to the bottom of our new-found obsession with gluten free, it's important to first understand what gluten is and how it affects the body.

In the above TED-Ed video, gastroenterologist Dr William Chey answers some key questions you may have.

What Is Gluten?

Chey explains that gluten is an insoluble protein composite made up of two proteins: gliadin and glutenin.

It's found in certain grains, including wheat, rye and barley.

Gluten is responsible for the elasticity of dough and the chewiness of foods made from wheat flour, like bread and pasta.

Some people feel unwell after eating foods such as bread and pasta. These people my have a wheat allergy, coeliac disease, or non-coeliac gluten sensitivity.

What Is A Wheat Allergy?

A person has a wheat allergy if their immune system launches a response to wheat proteins.

According to Chey, they may experience watery eyes, a runny nose and hives. Severe reactions can also include a racing heart, tongue swelling and shortness of breath.

What Is Coeliac Disease?

Coeliac disease is an inherited disease where consuming foods containing gluten leads to inflammation and damage of the lining of the small intestine.

This can lead to problems including belly pain, bloating, gas, diarrhoea, rashes and bone problems like osteoporosis. It's also been linked to infertility, fatigue and depression when left untreated.

What Is Non-Coeliac Gluten Sensitivity?

People who experience some symptoms of coeliac disease - such as stomach ache and bloating - but do not test positive for coeliac disease when blood tests are completed tend to have non-coeliac gluten sensitivity.

What treatment is available?

The most effective treatment for coeliac disease or non-coeliac gluten sensitivity is a gluten free diet, says Chey.

So, How Many People Actually Need To Eat Gluten Free Food?

It's estimated that one in every 100-200 people in America have coeliac disease. However, it's difficult to get an accurate figure for how many people have wheat allergies or non-coeliac gluten sensitivity, as there is no reliable test for these conditions.

Instead, diagnosis is made by monitoring symptoms and testing to see if they improve with a gluten free diet.

Chey believes that some people may believe they have gluten sensitivities, when actually they are allergic to the sugars found in foods today, called fructans.

He says the "nocebo effect" may be another reason for the rise in people eating gluten free food. This is when people believe something will be harmful to them and subsequently experience problems.

In other words, the bad press gluten is getting in the media may be causing people to ditch the bread unnecessarily.

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