There is a lot of talk these days about wheat and gluten. Maybe it is because doctors and scientists are finding more and more people have problems with common food allergies. Have you been tested by your doctor? Did your doctor tell you that you were allergic to wheat, or did he/ she say you were allergic to gluten? I bet you are confused about it and you probably want to know what the difference is between the two things.
Or maybe you just have to do a diagram of a plant for your science class. That's okay too. My diagram is pretty simple, though. I think you should also take a look at a few more technical diagrams too, like the one made by the Wheat Foods Council.
Wheat is a type of grass, and in the food world these plants are called grains or 'cereals.' I am sure you know what cereal is because you or someone you know probably eats it every morning for breakfast. Well, in the science world cereal doesn't mean a food in a box on the store shelf. It means a 'grass-like' plant that gets harvested for its dry seeds. It is that dry seed part of the grass plant that is ground up to make flour.
When wheat is ready to harvest it will have some pretty small seeds on the top of it that are called berries. Some books call them kernals instead but those two words mean the same thing. Covering the seed inside those berries is a thing called an endosperm. That's where the gluten is, inside the endosperm around the seed, and it is one of many common food allergies. Well, in the case of wheat, the seed part of that grass where the gluten is found happens to be the source of the problem for a person with a gluten allergy. Gluten is the protein part of the plant. It is the magic ingredient in the wheat plant that makes bread so rubbery and spongy. It is like a glue that holds all the other ingredients in the dough together so that bread doesn't fall apart and get all crumbly after you bake it. If you are allergic to it, then when you eat it your body produces antibodies against it and they will cause you to have all kinds of stomache aches, skin rashes, problems for you when you go to the bathroom, and even thinking and concentration problems, too. Sometimes people with gluten allergy will even become celiac. That is a very serious disease that I wrote a report about in Cilie Yack is Under Attack.
Now if you have an allergy to gluten (which is sometimes called gluten intolerance instead), then you have to also stay away from a few other grasses too. You see, your allergy is to a protein in grasses. And there are a few other grass plants that also have gluten in them. Gluten is in wheat, rye, and barley plants. It is also in a few other plants that are not as well known like kamut and spelt. People with a gluten allergy also have to avoid oats unless the package says that it is gluten free. You see, oats are usually grown and harvested on the same fields as wheat and use the same equipment. So gluten free people need to buy oats from farmers that don't grow wheat or use equipment that harvests wheat. A gluten allergy is very tricky to manage. That is why people with gluten intolerance often visit places like celiac.com to help them learn how to cook and shop for food.
You must be very careful to read packages all the time and to check for words like "contains gluten" on the label. Some companies will say right on the box or bag that it is gluten free. You should also look to see if the food is made on "shared equipment" or if it is made in a "dedicated facility." Shared equipment means that the food is made with machines that also make foods with gluten in them, but the company washes the machines between foods. Some people are so allergic to gluten that they will not eat food made on shared equipment. Dedicated facility means that the company does not have gluten anywhere in their building. Some people only buy food from dedicated facilities because they feel safer. If you would like an easy list to print out visit our Free Online Allergy Shopping Guide for information on common foods that contain gluten, ingredients that contain gluten, and hidden sources of gluten.
Wheat Allergy sufferers will get a reaction from touching or eating any part of the wheat plant. Their bodies react differently than someone with a gluten allergy. When your allergist tests you for food allergies he usually uses a blood or skin test and it will measure IgE antibodies. Those are different than the kind of antibodies that usually react to gluten (those ones are IgA and IgG antibodies).
Someone with a wheat allergy will react to some or all of the proteins found in the wheat berry. You see, gluten is only one kind of protein. There are other ones too, like albumin, globulin, and gliadin. Anyone can become allergic to wheat. It doesn't have to be hereditary, but gluten intolerance and celiac disease are hereditary.
If you are allergic to wheat you cannot touch it, breath it in, or eat it. You may get itchy, rashy hands when you play with play doh. You may have a hard time breathing. You may start to cough when you breath wheat flour while making food in the kitchen. You may get hives after playing in wheat grass. A person with gluten intolerance may not have any of these symptoms from wheat, but if they eat it they will feel really sick afterward. If you have a wheat allergy you start to react pretty fast, sometimes within a couple of minutes. You can also get a headache, an itchy mouth, feel sick from it too, and even puke from it. Some people's faces or throats will even swell up.
If you would like an easy list to print out visit our Allergen Guide Book for information on common foods that contain Wheat, ingredients that contain wheat, and hidden sources of wheat.
If your allergist says you are allergic to wheat, there may be a chance you have a problem with gluten too. If a wheat free diet isn't helping enough, you may want to get tested for a gluten allergy too.