What is the difference between a wheat allergy and coeliac disease?
Celiac disease (technical term is gluten-sensitive enteropathy/sprue)
Coeliac disease is a permanent intolerance of the organism towards gluten. It can also be seen as an auto-immune illness caused by the gluten contained in the grain types wheat, spelt, rye, barley, couscous and green spelt. In addition to the gluten as an antigen the genetic predisposition and further, partly still unknown factors are the premise for the development of a gluten intolerance. Coeliac disease belongs to the most wide spread chronic diseases in the world. In Europe, North Africa and areas where the majority of the population is of European descent (Australia, USA, Canada) the frequency of coeliac disease is about 1%. The only scientifically approved therapy is a life-long strict gluten-free diet.
Wheat allergy is an illness inducing defence reaction of the body towards various proteins in wheat. Sensitization via the airways through inhaling grain dust leads to the so-called baker’s asthma. If, however, by eating wheat a sensitization occurs in the gastro-intestinal system this may lead to a classical food allergy of the type lgE. With children wheat is one of six main allergens. With adults this allergy occurs less frequently, as in most cases it disappears again by the time the children reach school age. The same as with coeliac disease the only effective therapy is a strict avoidance of the triggering allergen, whereby due to the similarity of the allergens very often not only wheat, but also wild wheat, durum wheat, small spelt, Emmer wheat, Kamut, wild spelt, spelt and green spelt should be eliminated.
With a wheat allergy it is necessary to primarily avoid wheat, with coeliac disease, however, all wheat types containing gluten (wheat, barley, rye, spelt, triticale, Emmer wheat, green spelt, small spelt, bulgur, couscous) must be strictly avoided.