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Starch & Wheat Allergy

Updated July 19, 2017

The top eight food allergens are wheat, milk, peanuts, fish, eggs, soy, shellfish and tree nuts. If you suspect a wheat or starch allergy, a doctor can confirm it with a skin prick or blood test. In a skin test, the skin is exposed to small levels of wheat allergens to see if your skin shows a reaction. Blood tests measure the amount of antibodies present in your blood.

Allergy vs. Intolerance

Food allergies trigger the release of antibodies and the effects can be felt soon after ingesting the offending substance. The areas typically affected are the digestive tract, respiratory tract and the skin. Food intolerance, unlike an allergy, cannot be detected using a blood or skin test. The body's immune system uses a variety of mechanisms to fight these foods and the effects can take longer than three days to show signs. Intolerances (also referred to as sensitivities) are much more difficult to identify.

Symptoms

Symptoms of allergies to wheat and other starches such as potatoes, corn and rice, include gas, bloating, diarrhoea, constipation, sinus infections, depression, asthma, headaches, joint pain, muscle aches, fatigue, arthritis and irritable bowel syndrome. Many people are not aware of the allergy as their bodies adapt to the allergen and actually develop an addiction to it, as the offending substance is necessary to mask the symptoms. Many experience withdrawal symptoms when wheat is first eliminated from the diet. These typically cease within a week or two and health improves significantly.

Causes

Food allergies are believed to be hereditary. Enzymes in the stomach and digestive tract break down the food that we eat. Without adequate enzymes to break down foods, large particles of undigested particles are released into the blood and valuable nutrients are lost as the body is not able to absorb them.

Coeliac Disease

Coeliac Disease is a lifelong disease that causes an immune reaction to gluten, the protein found in wheat. Gluten causes damage to the digestive system and nutrients are not absorbed from food. Gluten causes the body to release antibodies that destroy the tiny hairs in the intestine, called villi, that absorb proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals from food. Wheat must be eliminated entirely, along with semolina, spelt, kamut, durum, rye, barley and triticale. If wheat is not eliminated, it can lead to a host of life-threatening conditions.

Treatment

The only known fail-safe treatment for starch allergies to wheat, potatoes, corn and rice is complete avoidance. In some cases, individuals can reintroduce the trigger food in small amounts after following an elimination diet for at least a year. Some experts believe children are more likely to outgrow these allergies, while adult on-set allergies are likely lifelong. Some find relief when reintroducing healthy bacteria in the form of probiotics into their diet. This healthy bacteria is found in the intestines and helps with digestion and nutrient absorption. Hydrochloric acid is another treatment, although it is somewhat controversial since long-term affects have not been conducted. Hydrochloric acid (HCL) is produced in the stomach; it breaks down food and extracts nutrients. Studies have found that people with food allergies do not produce enough hydrochloric acid and many who have suffered find relief with HCL supplementation.

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About the Author

Erin Pochman has been a personal trainer in Los Angeles since 2009, certified through the National Academy of Sports Medicine. She is also a former elementary school teacher and graduate of the New York City Teaching Fellows program with a master’s degree from Hunter College. Pochman has been writing fitness and health articles since 2010.