Wheat Allergy

Wheat allergy is among the most common food allergies in children.  The good news is if developed in early childhood, it is often outgrown.  Reactions to wheat can vary widely ranging anywhere from eczema to gastrointestinal symptoms to hives and even anaphylaxis.

An allergy to wheat is different than a wheat intolerance or Celiac disease.   Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder in which the small intestine reacts to the ingestion of gluten, a protein that is predominantly found in wheat, barley, rye and sometimes oats. 

People with an allergy to wheat do not necessarily have to avoid gluten, like those with Celiac disease, because wheat has other proteins that cause an allergic response.

The main proteins in wheat that can cause allergic reactions are albumin, globulin, gliadin and gluten with the most common culprits being albumin and globulin. 

People with a wheat allergy typically can have other grains that contain gluten such as oats, rye and barley.

It can be difficult, however, to find barley and rye products that don’t have cross-contamination with wheat, therefore, people with a wheat allergy often find it easier to follow a gluten free diet.  This is especially the case now that so many gluten free products are available in grocery stores.

Going Gluten Free:  A Growing Trend

These days, it seems that everyone is avoiding gluten so, you might wonder, do they all have Celiac disease?  Not necessarily.  Many people follow a gluten free diet because it is the latest diet trend.  When gluten is eliminated, they report feeling better, having more energy and even losing weight. 

This could very well be due to wheat intolerance as it is possible to be intolerant to wheat without having Celiac disease.  However, it could also be due to the fact that following a gluten free diet, at least initially, leads people to eat less processed foods and snack foods that people tend to overeat when on a regular diet.

No matter the reason for avoiding wheat, you’ll find resources here to help you do it!

All of the recipes in the Allergy Free Recipes index are gluten free (some recipes call for oats so be sure to look for oats that are processed in a dedicated gluten free facility as risk of cross-contamination with wheat is high).

Also, check out some of my  picks for Wheat Allergy/Gluten Free books in the right column.

Finally, be sure to review the following to help read labels and identify foods containing wheat: 

Wheat Allergy: Ingredients To Avoid

Wheat is found in many food ingredients that you may not suspect. Some of the ingredients listed below may or may not be derived from wheat such as "modified food starch" and "natural flavoring". The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act requires that labels clearly identify ingredients containing or derived from wheat, however, it is not required that gluten be listed.  

Because the demand for gluten free foods has grown and continues to grow (an August 2012 survey by Packaged Facts found the market reached $4.2 billion in 2012), many companies are proactively labeling foods gluten free.  Rules for what can be considered gluten free are not in place (but, as of February 2013, are being considered), therefore, a certain amount of caution must be used when eating foods that are labeled “gluten free”.

For more information about FALCPA, visit the U.S. FDA Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition website. 

Here is a list of ingredients that may contain wheat to watch for on food labels (there may be more):

  • wheat (bran, germ, starch)
  • bulgur
  • flour (graham, durham, enriched)
  • gluten
  • modified food starch
  • malt
  • spelt
  • vegetable gums
  • semolina
  • hydrolyzed vegetable protein
  • starch
  • natural flavoring

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Foods Commonly Containing Wheat

This list is fairly long because wheat seems to be in everything! Here is the list of foods to watch out for:

  • Snacks - crackers, chips, cereals, snack mixes, pretzels
  • Breads - bread, bagels, muffins, rolls, pastries, donuts, pancakes, waffles
  • Desserts - cakes, cookies, baking mixes, pies, other baked goods
  • Soups - most soups including broths
  • Pastas - noodles, packaged dinners containing pasta
  • Condiments - soy sauce, worchestire sauce, salad dressings, barbeque sauces, marinades, glazes, some vinegars
  • Beverages - Beer (including non-alcholic), root beer, drink mixes such as instant breakfast
  • Meats - frozen meats (some are packaged with broth), lunch meats, hot dogs
  • Gravies and Sauces - most likely thickened with wheat flour
  • Misc. - flour tortillas, stuffing
  • Tabbouleh, Tabouleh or Tabouli - a salad made with bulgur
  • Pilafs


National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, http://www.niaid.nih.gov/topics/foodAllergy/understanding/Pages/quickFacts.aspx, Accessed 3/2013

Food Allergy Initiative, http://www.faiusa.org/page.aspx?pid=383, Accessed 3/2013  

Food Allergy Research and Education, www.foodallergy.org, Accessed 3/2013

 The Hill, http://thehill.com/blogs/regwatch/healthcare/284929-gluten-free-labeling-rules-head-to-white-house, Accessed 3/2013.

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