Wheat intolerance refers to the human body’s inability to absorb food containing wheat or its by-products. An individual who is unable to process and assimilate wheat into the body produces a hypersensitivity response during consumption. Wheat intolerance symptoms include digestive distress, like diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. Abdominal pain and gas may also go with these symptoms.

Differentiating Wheat Intolerance from Related Hypersensitivity Reactions

Gluten, a protein component found in wheat and in most grains, may cause adverse reactions in people with wheat intolerance. While not really the same as gluten intolerance, people with wheat sensitivities are only bothered by wheat consumption. However, those who are suffering gluten intolerance will experience reactions when consuming all types of grain products.

Wheat allergy on the other hand may cause signs and symptoms other than gastrointestinal distress. Wheat allergies can result in a sudden onset of hives, rash, swelling and even breathing difficulties. This can be devastating to the individual who has the allergy. Anyone suffering from wheat intolerance should know how to differentiate the two conditions as they tend to manifest varying symptoms.

People who are suffering from intolerance to wheat products usually don’t develop symptoms until 24 to 48 hours after consumption. This is partly because of the lack of enzymes that aid in the breakdown and absorption of wheat. Sensitivity can include intestinal symptoms, headache and a general feeling of malaise.

Risk Factors

There are a few risk factors for the development of wheat intolerance. Not all individuals with these risk factors can develop the condition.

Some of the risk factors include:
  • Gender (most common in females)
  • Family history of Celiac Disease
  • European ancestry

Wheat Intolerance Symptoms in Adults

The symptoms for wheat intolerance may appear vague and hence hard to distinguish from gluten intolerance. During the initial stage, symptoms may appear mild and can progress as time goes by. Other kinds of food intolerance may be difficult to diagnose during the first stages. In pediatric cases, common wheat intolerance symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting and skin rashes. For adults, it is highly variable from one person to another.
Here are the most common manifestations that one needs to watch out for:
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Bloating
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fluid retention
  • Flatulence
  • Weight loss
  • Lethargy
  • Skin rash
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Lethargy

As mentioned earlier, not all of these symptoms will manifest in every individual. If these symptoms are observed after a meal, then there is a high possibility of wheat intolerance.

Treatment and Prevention

Wheat intolerance is best diagnosed with the help of a medical practitioner. The condition is treated in the same way other food intolerance issues are treated. The doctor may advise the patient to completely avoid wheat products and other gluten containing foods. Apart from wheat, there are grains that also need to be avoided such as farina, oats, rye, wheat grass, barley, couscous, graham and spelt. It is very helpful to always check on food labels when purchasing food products since wheat and wheat-like products are used in a great variety of foods.