Food allergies are more of a common bane than you may realize. A 2011 study at Northwestern University in Chicago estimates that 8 percent of children younger than 18 have food allergies. And, about one in 133 Americans have celiac disease, an allergy to gluten found in wheat products. While some allergies manifest themselves in skin irritations, individuals with wheat allergies may be more likely to experience gastrointestinal symptoms that can, in turn, affect weight.
Wheat allergies cause an inappropriate auto-immune response in the body. In effect, the body attacks itself, targeting the villi of the small intestine. These small projections into the cavity of the small intestine increase the surface area of the organ to increase its ability to absorb nutrients. Most of the body's nutrient absorption occurs in the small intestine. Any impacts on this structure may have a direct impact on weight.
Some individuals with wheat allergies may have difficulty gaining weight due to malabsorption of nutrients even if they consume a great deal of food. When the villi are damaged, the body's ability to absorb nutrients is impaired. Several vitamins and minerals are essential for metabolism for weight gain. Deficiencies in nutrients such as vitamins A and B-2, as well as calcium and phosphorus may slow metabolism, resulting in changes in weight. The impact will be greater with the amount of wheat consumed. A diet high in wheat products will aggravate the condition and worsen the associated symptoms.
Wheat allergies can also lead to weight gain with dietary changes. Individuals with wheat allergies may feel self-conscious when eating out because of dietary restrictions. Instead, some may consume bigger portions of foods that don't worsen their symptoms. Some individuals with celiac disease may experience depression or heightened stress from their condition, causing them to overeat. A 2009 study by the University of Marburg in Germany found that 35 percent of participants with diagnosed celiac disease experienced psychological problems, including depression.
Living with Wheat Allergies
To maintain a healthy weight, an individual with a wheat allergy must follow a gluten-free diet. Any consumption of wheat-containing foods or beverages may trigger symptoms leading to unhealthy weight losses or gains. Your biggest challenge will likely lie in identifying hidden sources of wheat often found in processed foods. Even seemingly safe products such as vegetable broth, stock or seasonings may contain ingredients derived from wheat. As awareness increases, you will likely find more products labeled with information noting their wheat content. If you are unsure, you will need to contact the manufacturer to find out if the products are wheat free. It is the unfortunate bane of having a food allergy.
- "Pediatrics"; The Prevalence, Severity, and Distribution of Childhood Food Allergy in the United States; S. Ruchi, et al.; June 2011
- "Archives of Internal Medicine"; Prevalence of Celiac Disease in At-Risk and Not-At-Risk Groups in the United States; A. Fasano, et al.; February 2003
- Celiac Disease Foundation: Celiac Disease Symptoms
- "Movement Disorders"; Neurological Symptoms in Patients with Biopsy Proven Celiac Disease; K. Bürk, et al.; December 2009
- Celiac; Unsafe Gluten-Free Food List (Unsafe Ingredients); Scott Adams; November 27, 2007