Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Eating when you have a wheat allergy

By Marsha N. Woolery

Wheat allergy is having an allergic reaction after consuming foods that contain wheat. The allergy arises as a result of some proteins that are present in the wheat. These reactions include itchy lips/tongue/palate, itching of skin, tightness of chest, difficulty swallowing, dry cough, shortness of breath, wheezing and low blood pressure.
An allergic reaction can occur at any age and is the reason for the recommendation to offer small portions (quarter teaspoon) of a new food over three days to an infant at age 28 weeks when being introduced to foods from the family pot. Wheat and its products are referred to as hyperallergenic because the proteins present are more likely to trigger an allergic reaction than other grains.
Persons with wheat allergy may not be able to consume oats, barley and rye because they have similar proteins present. Persons with wheat allergy should not consume wheat flour and its products such as bread, cake, crackers, pasta, cereals, dumplings, fritters, pancake, porridge/cereal mix, breaded or floured foods, cookies, ready-made soups, textured or hydrolysed vegetable protein (veggie meat), sausages, cake mixes, pancake/ dumpling/ fritters/muffin mixes, soy sauce, ketchup, modified food starch, baby foods, ice cream, hard candies and jelly beans. In some of these products, wheat flour is used as a thickening or binding agent. The dietary recommendations for persons with wheat allergies include avoiding all food and drinks with wheat or wheat products.
Consume staples that are wheat free such as yam, cassava, breadfruit, Irish and sweet potatoes and the flour from these produce. When using these wheat flour alternatives, remember they are gluten free and are not able to stick together to form a dough for kneading, so take caution and spend time to experiment with flour.
Fresh fruits and vegetables, peas, beans, natural seasonings, browning instead of soy sauce, cooked tomatoes or homemade ketchup instead of ketchup that is commercially prepared. To prevent or treat an allergic reaction which could be fatal, it is important to read all ingredient labels every time food is purchased and used.
Food labels should clearly, consistently and accurately describe all ingredients. If in doubt don't eat or drink product! Ask waiter, waitress, chef or restaurant manager if wheat is present in dish before consuming it because in our culture wheat flour is a hidden ingredient in many of our dishes as it is used as a thickening agent and a filler.
A person with wheat allergy may become deficient in the B vitamins, as wheat is an excellent source of the B vitamins. It is important for food manufacturers to be aware of wheat and other allergies and develop recipes and products for such persons.
With or without a food allergy, persons are able to make better food choices so they can live a healthier and happier 2013.
Marsha N. Woolery is a registered dietitian/nutritionist in private practice and adjunct lecturer at Northern Caribbean University; email: