Did you know that Wheat is considered a priority allergen by Health Canada?
First it’s important to note that a Wheat allergy is different from a gluten allergy. Gluten is a protein found in the grains like Wheat (including wheat varieties like spelt, kamut, farro and durum, plus products like bulgar and semolina), barley, rye, triticale and oats.
So all gluten free foods are also Wheat free, however, Wheat free food may still contain gluten. If you are only allergic to Wheat not gluten, than you can enjoy eating the other grains mentioned above.
Symptoms of a Wheat allergy include:
- Swelling, itching or irritation of the mouth or throat.
- Hives, itchy rash or swelling of the skin.
- Nasal congestion.
- Itchy, watery eyes.
- Difficulty breathing.
- Cramps, nausea or vomiting.
If you suspect that you might have an allergy or intolerance to Wheat what do you do?
If you think you have a serious allergy it is important to see a doctor. Your doctor can refer you to an allergist who can confirm the allergy with either a blood test or a skin prick test. When a person is allergic to something, their immune system reacts by making antibodies called IgE (immunoglobulin E) specific to the allergen (to protect the person against the allergen). A blood sample is taken and then mixed with the allergen. Blood tests measure the level of IgE in the body.
A skin prick test is done by placing a small drop of the allergen on a person’s arm or back. The skin is then pricked with a special needle so the body can absorb the allergen. After about 15-20 minutes the skin is examined to see if there is any redness or swelling. The result will be measured and recorded and then the allergist will determine if it is a positive reaction.
You can also try to avoid eating Wheat for 30 days and see if the symptoms disappear or are significantly reduced. Seems straightforward right? Well, unfortunately, Wheat is found in many products that you might not suspect. Be sure to read the ingredients on every food product.
Below is a list of common sources of Wheat:
- Baking powder
- Baked goods, e.g. breads, bread crumbs, cakes, cereals, cookies, crackers, donuts, muffins, pasta, baking mixes
- Batter-fried foods
- Binders and fillers in processed meat, poultry and fish products
- Coffee substitutes
- Chicken and beef broth; Gravy mixes, bouillon cubes
- Deli meats
- Gelatinized starch, modified starch, modified food starch
- Communion/altar bread and wafers
- Hydrolyzed plant protein
- Ice cream
- Imitation bacon
- Pie fillings, puddings, snack foods
- Salad dressings
- Sauces, like chutney and tamari
- Seasonings, natural flavouring (from malt, wheat)
- Soy sauce
- Candy, chocolate bars
- Pie fillings and puddings
In addition keep in mind that Wheat goes by other names including:
- Enriched flour, white flour, whole-wheat flour
- Graham flour, high gluten flour, high protein flour
- Spelt (dinkel, farro)
- Triticale (a cross between wheat and rye)
- Titicum aestivom
- Wheat bran, wheat flour, wheat germ, wheat gluten, wheat starch
Eating out can be very challenging because as you’ve just learned, Wheat is hidden in so many foods. Unlike food manufacturers, restaurants are not required to list priority allergens for menu items. It is up to you to look for possible sources of your allergen or for cross contamination by reading the menu and talking with your server and/or the chef.
All of McLean Meats deli products including our deli meats, hot dogs & sausages are allergy friendly; free of gluten, soy and dairy.
We hope this post was useful. Living with food allergies especially gluten, soy and dairy can be monumentally challenging when so many products contain these foods. Our Vice President, Michelle Neilson can relate, as she is allergic to both Soy and Wheat.