Wheat as an allergen catalyst?
August 20, 2010 12:59 PM   Subscribe

I don't seem to be allergic to wheat, but eating wheat makes me allergic to many other things, including uncooked fruits, nuts and vegetables (except citrus), general seasonal allergies, animals, etc. When I stop eating wheat, my allergies to ALL of these things go away. It's crazy. Why does this happen?

So, eating wheat itself doesn't seem to do anything at all to me, and I'd eaten it for years. When I was a kid, I developed an allergy to kiwi (I really loved it, so was sad when I couldn't have it anymore). The allergy doesn't seem to be too serious but it comes on instantly and I've always stopped eating whatever I was eating as soon as it happened. The symptoms are basically just a really scratchy throat and a few problems breathing and it goes away after and hour or two. Eventually, the reaction spread from kiwis to carrots, then melons, and then to even more common fruits like pears and apples. The ridiculous part was when I couldn't even eat lettuce (seriously. lettuce. It's all water, what the hell?). Soy milk would absolutely destroy me, and I couldn't have raw almonds or walnuts or anything like that either. I'd thought it had to do something with pesticides or who knows what, but it didn't matter if the fruits were organic, home-grown, or anything like that.

So, I figured I was just allergic and had to avoid those foods. Every now and then I'd try them to see if it had gone away, but it never did. Then a few years ago I decided to try not eating carbs for awhile for health reasons - which necessarily entails removing bread from my diet. My seasonal allergies were gone within a week, in the middle of spring in manhattan (which is telling you something if you've got allergies and live there). I tried out eating other forbidden items, and amazingly there was no problem at all. I was completely free from my allergies.

Now a few years have passed, and I've started eating a few wheat items within the last month, and my allergies have returned. They're not as strong as they were, but they're definitely here again. I've searched online for anything about wheat as an allergen catalyst, but all I can find is celiac info. Wheat doesn't give me any of the uncomfortable symptoms of celiac, so I'm fairly confident that it's not the problem, but I'd still like to know if there's any information about this specific allergic reaction.

So has anyone heard of something like this?
posted by scrutiny to Health & Fitness (12 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: At least parts of this sound like Oral Allergy Syndrome.
posted by griphus at 1:01 PM on August 20, 2010

Seconding Oral Allergy Syndrome. Don't know about the wheat part, but the raw produce + nuts sound like it. In my opinion, I think that the reason this kind of allergy is on the rise is due to genetically modified foods, which are unavoidable in a lot of industrialized societies. My allergist says that's one of the theories, but they're not really sure. In any case, it sucks. Keep anti-histamines on hand. Get thee to an allergist.
posted by raztaj at 1:06 PM on August 20, 2010

Not everyone with Celiac Disease gets pain from the gluten. It is still doing damage it just doesn't hurt. I dealt with it for years and didn't know it (I think it's called 'Silent Celiac') until I had a bad bout of gastroenteritis. The only way it was discovered was because I was having gall bladder pain and the doctor did an endoscopy looking for ulcers. They found Celiac Disease instead.

I guess I'm just saying don't be so fast to rule out Celiac Disease, get an endoscopy to check for it even just to be sure.
posted by TooFewShoes at 1:09 PM on August 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

see also.
posted by elizardbits at 1:16 PM on August 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: OAS cross reaction to birch pollen sounds dead on the money. By why does it go away when I eat wheat? Would celiac cause an increase in allergic activity?
posted by scrutiny at 1:18 PM on August 20, 2010

paging melissam to the thread...

This is something that is discussed all the time in the Paleolithic diet community. I don't have references for you unfortunately (hopefully someone with a more scientific bent will show up and provide), but what I've gleaned from my casual reading is that the general theory is that wheat and grains cause a constant level of inflammation in the body due to damage caused by lectins; constant inflammation makes the immune system more sensitive and more likely to have allergic reactions. The Paleo Diet has been anecdotally linked with "curing" seasonal allergies as well as specific food allergies like you've described here (among myriad other ailments like acne, migraines, obesity, rheumatoid arthritis, etc etc).
posted by telegraph at 1:20 PM on August 20, 2010

If you've found the cure to OAS I'm going to name my second child "scrutiny" (as the first is already named).

OAS can get worse with exposure. This past year my reaction to apples has gone from just a bit of a scratchy throat for an hour or two to hoarseness and throat pain for the better part of a week. I would give up wheat in a heartbeat if it meant I could eat apples again.
posted by a22lamia at 2:06 PM on August 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Might be a mold allergy. all those things are on the anti-mold diet. Which I'm on.
posted by rileyray3000 at 5:14 PM on August 20, 2010

Would celiac cause an increase in allergic activity?

It's possible. I know someone with celiac disease who had a variety of food allergy/intolerance issues that were healed or lessened dramatically when she stopped eating gluten. I'm not sure how common it is but there's one example.
posted by mandanza at 7:00 PM on August 20, 2010

It's anecdotal, but I knew someone in high school with wheat allergies who described it in pretty much the same way you did.
posted by wayland at 7:02 PM on August 20, 2010

Actually, you can have a simple blood test to rule out celiac. You don't need to jump right to endoscopy. Just letting you know, since endoscopy is enough to scare many people off.
posted by acoutu at 1:59 PM on August 21, 2010

In case anyone was curious about whether this is cure for OAS:
My boyfriend tried not eating wheat for a week and a half. He has pretty bad pollen allergies and birch OAS. The wheat-free diet had no effect. So I suppose wheat aggravates OAS in some folks but certainly not all.
posted by phoenixy at 8:44 AM on August 31, 2010

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