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Gluten Allergy

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Updated February 28, 2013

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Definition:

Gluten is a form of plant protein found in the grains wheat, barley and rye, and in foods containing ingredients derived from these grains.

While it's possible to have a true allergic reaction to the gluten protein in wheat, such an allergy is generally referred to as a wheat allergy, not a gluten allergy. Unofficially, though, many people use the term "gluten allergy" interchangeably with the terms celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity, two separate conditions that involve two different immune system reactions to gluten.

Neither celiac disease nor non-celiac gluten sensitivity is technically an "allergy" — allergies generally involve near-immediate symptoms such as sneezing and itching, while reactions to celiac and gluten sensitivity are more often delayed and involve gastrointestinal and neurological symptoms.

But as awareness of the gluten-free diet has grown, some people with celiac or gluten sensitivity have found it simpler to tell people that they have a "gluten allergy" rather than take the time to explain their conditions. The treatment for celiac and gluten sensitivity — total avoidance of the offending substance — is the same as the treatment for an allergy, and people who aren't familiar with gluten-related conditions may have an easier time understanding the term "allergy."

Learn more:

Also Known As: gluten sensitivity, gluten intolerance, celiac disease

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