Learn more about gluten intolerances and wheat allergies.
A gluten-free lifestyle is a necessary prescription for people suffering from Celiac disease or gluten intolerance. This information is to help develop an understanding of the differences among Celiac disease, gluten intolerance, and wheat allergy.
The market for gluten-free products is expected to grow 28% a year and top $6.6 billion by 2017 as more people are diagnosed with celiac disease and food allergies. The National Institutes of Health says celiac disease affects about 1 in 100 people in Europe and North America. The University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center estimate is 1 in 133 healthy people. (a)
Gluten exists in the grass-like grains wheat, barley, rye, kamut and spelt. Gluten provides an elasticity and glue-like capacity to hold its flour products together and provide them with a chewy texture.
Gluten is often used in sauces, flavorings, flavor enhancers and even as a binder or filler in vitamins and supplements. Adapting a gluten-free diet requires more than just removing wheat products from your lifestyle.
Gluten intolerance can be separated into three categories: (1) Celiac disease, (2) Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity and (3) wheat allergy. Technically, a wheat allergy is not gluten intolerance, but the terms are often used interchangeably and create confusion, so it is listed here.
(1) Celiac disease occurs when the proteins in gluten trigger the immune system to overreact with strong antibodies. Over time, these antibodies wear down little hairs, called villi, that line the walls of your intestine. These tiny hairs absorb nutrients as foods pass through the lower digestive tract. As Celiac disease progresses, the body becomes less able to process any nutrition from food.
(2) Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity (NCGS) is more difficult to pinpoint. Individuals who suffer from NCGS have symptoms similar to people with Celiac disease, but the blood test which identifies and diagnoses Celiac disease returns as negative. The only way to diagnose NCGS is through a gluten-free diet.
(3) Wheat allergy symptoms are different than gluten intolerance or Celiac disease, but some refer to them as gluten allergy symptoms. Wheat allergies are a histamine response to wheat, much like a peanut allergy or hay fever. Wheat allergies manifest themselves in a variety of ways for different people. Some people experience hives while others might experience stomach pain.
Even though Celiac disease occurs as a reaction to a protein in wheat, it is not a wheat allergy. A wheat allergy is a traditional allergy in which the body develops antibodies to an allergen. An individual can have a wheat allergy and not have Celiac disease (or gluten intolerance), and vice versa. They are two different responses in the body.
In most cases, gluten intolerance symptoms will be systemic and a result of consuming gluten over a period of time. Symptoms of a wheat allergy will manifest themselves more like a typical allergy - quickly and with a single exposure. (b)
The information contained here is not intended as medical advice. Always consult a medical professional for a thorough and professional analysis.
Spangler Candy packaging has information and symbols noting our products are free of the top common allergens. We include gluten in this listing, but show wheat and gluten separately due to the differences as explained above. Please see further information on re-bagged items.
(a) Los Angeles Times, 2012 (b) gluten-intolerance-symptoms.com, 2011.