Remember that list of the top eight allergenic foods? Wheat makes an appearance on that list, too. Symptoms of wheat allergy include itchy mouth or throat; hives; nasal congestion; difficulty breathing; itchy, watery eyes; abdominal cramping; nausea; vomiting; and diarrhea. In extreme cases, wheat allergy can cause anaphylaxis.
Wheat contains several types of protein, including gluten. Gluten sensitivity or intolerance is fairly common. Some people who are merely sensitive to gluten can tolerate wheat and wheat products with minor discomfort; symptoms include postnasal drip, cough, and phlegm. Wheat gluten is also a common trigger for pain in patients with rheumatoid arthritis.
However, gluten can cause serious problems for people with celiac disease, a chronic digestive disorder in which gluten can't be tolerated. Gluten triggers inflammation in the small intestine in these individuals, which can lead to poor nutrient absorption in addition to gastrointestinal damage. Many neurological conditions have been linked to nutrient deficiency due to gluten intolerance. Jessica Black, author of The Anti-Inflammation Diet and Recipe Book, writes, "If you suffer from any neurological condition, it is worth a four-week trial of gluten avoidance."
Whole wheat also contains oxalates, substances which occur naturally in plants and people. But when oxalates reach high levels in the body, they can crystallize and contribute to the formation of kidney stones. Some medical and health professionals recommend restricting oxalate consumption for people with a history of kidney stones, but this is probably only helpful in patients who absorb excess oxalate in the first place. This sometimes occurs when an individual isn't getting enough calcium, since oxalate reduces the body's absorption of calcium.
What you can do: Wheat is so widespread it can be hard to avoid. If you have wheat allergy, avoid foods that list any of the following as ingredients: wheat flour, wheat germ, wheat starch, bran, modified food starch, farina, spelt, and semolina.
Amaranth, garbanzo, quinoa, rice, and soy flours are gluten-free and can all be substituted for wheat flour in equal measure. For each cup, blend with one tablespoon of arrowroot powder, which acts as a binding agent. You can find arrowroot powder in the spice section or baking aisle of your local grocery.