The Problem with Wheat

Recently, I posted that I was starting a new diet and was cutting out all sorts of foods ranging from wheat to nightshade vegetables such as potatoes. I haven’t been following this diet as closely as I should, but I’ve done pretty well, so here’s what I discovered. When I fell off the wagon where wheat products are concerned, I had a flare up of my Dermatomyositis (joint and muscle aches as well as hives). For instance, my husband and I went to a Mexican restaurant, and I ate flour tortillas, and the next day, I woke up feeling terrible. Another day, I ate battered chicken, and the next day…you guessed it, I felt awful! Ate a hamburger bun with some beef in it at my friend’s BBQ…got a flare up. Now, when I slip up and eat a different food, whether it be dairy or potatoes…no problem. Keeping a food diary seems to help track of what is and isn’t causing problems. Wheat seems to be the culprit.

A couple of years ago, I thought I may have a gluten problem because I had noticed that when I cut back on wheat products (because I wanted to lose weight), I seemed to feel a bit better, and I mentioned this to my Rheumatologist who is also an Immunologist. She tested me for a Celiac Disease, and the test came up negative. However, she did not test me for a wheat allergy…something I had not heard of. When I started having flare ups with wheat products recently, I started looking up information about gluten, and here’s what I discovered…Celiac, an intolerance for gluten, is very different from a wheat allergy.

As you can see from the chart below from the UCLA Division of Digestive Diseases, people with wheat allergies can experience nausea and irritation of the mouth or throat which is something I experience quite a bit. I also have the problem of hives, even in the winter when I’m not in the sun as much. I always thought this was part of Dermatomyositis. I’ve been blaming my nasal congestion, eye irritation, and difficulty breathing on “allergies”, but I assumed I was reacting to allergens in the air such as pollen.

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“Celiac vs Gluten-Sensitivity vs Wheat Allergies.” Celiac Disease Program. UCLA Division of Digestive Diseases, n.d. Web. 06 June 2016. <http://gastro.ucla.edu/site.cfm?id=281&gt;.

Since I’ve decreased my intake of wheat (which has seriously made me realize that wheat was a huge part of my diet), I’m not nearly as itchy as I was, and I’m not having the terrible nausea I was experiencing either, which my doctors chalked up to low blood pressure. You may remember (if you read my blog) that in December, I ate a couple of slices of pizza before going to a movie and at the end of the movie, when I stood up, I almost passed out. My husband helped me to get down safely on the floor and got me a soda thinking my blood sugar might be low. When I went to the doctor, she scolded me for eating “unopposed carbs” even though there was marinara sauce, cheese, and pepperoni on the pizza. She stated that my blood pressure, however, was low and that this may have had something to do with it. Since then, my blood pressure has come up low at my Rheumatologist’s office and the Cardiologists office. Subsequently, when I have episodes of nausea or feel dizzy, I simply eat something salty like sunflower seeds and drink a bunch of water to get my blood pressure back up. This helps, but in light of what I have learned about wheat allergies, I had to ask myself…can a wheat allergy cause low blood pressure?

After a quick search, I discovered that anaphylaxis, or an allergic reaction, CAN cause hypotension or low blood pressure. According to the website Australia Wide First Aid, “In an anaphylactic reaction the body suddenly releases chemical substances, such as histamine, that are stored in the cells of blood and tissue. This sudden release is caused by the reaction between the antibody and the allergen. The chemicals released from the cells cause swelling by acting on blood vessels. These chemicals also cause other problems such as a fall in blood pressure, also known as hypotension. The histamine released by your body during an anaphylactic reaction causes blood vessels to widen which leads to a sudden and severe drop in blood pressure.”

“Anaphylaxis and Hypotension.” Australia Wide First Aid. Australia Wide First Aid, 03 Oct. 2013. Web. 06 June 2016. <https://www.australiawidefirstaid.com.au/hypotension/&gt;.

I verified this information on the American Academy of Allergy, Ashthma, and Immunology website: https://www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/library/at-a-glance/anaphylaxis.

It’s all making sense now. I probably have an allergy to wheat, though I do plan to talk to my Rheumatologist about this possibility in the hopes she will test me for it. Of course, it’s easiest to avoid wheat by buying gluten free foods, but if I have a wheat allergy (not Celiac), it means that I can eat rye and barley which have gluten in them. Therefore, I have decided that I will be avoiding wheat in the future. This is a difficult decision, not only because I love to eat foods such as bread, pizza, pasta, and cake, but because wheat can be hidden in so many other foods that you wouldn’t suspect such as ice cream and salad dressing. Fortunately, according to foodallergy.org, all U.S. food producers must include wheat on the list of ingredients if wheat is included in it. Also, because “gluten-free” is in, there are many products that you can buy ready made such as gluten-free hamburger buns. I’ve also purchased some gluten free flour at Sprouts recently, and made some pretty good blueberry muffins with it. Some restaurants now offer gluten free products such as Schlotzsky’s which now offers Udie’s gluten free buns though your sandwhich will cost $2.00 more. It’s well worth it if it means not breaking out in hives, getting a sore throat, and experiencing severe nausea from a drop in blood pressure!

 

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