Watery eyes are a minor symptom of gluten intolerance, also called gluten allergy. A gluten allergy is a different condition than celiac disease, which causes the immune system to damage your small intestines when you eat products that contain gluten. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye, and it can cause a wide range of symptoms after eating the protein. Stop eating gluten until you can talk with your doctor to determine the cause of your symptoms.
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If you’re intolerant to gluten, your immune system experiences a hypersensitivity whenever you ingest gluten. For example, if you eat a cereal that’s made with rye and wheat, your immune system doesn’t recognize the protein as safe and reacts as if it could harm the body. This causes the body to produce immunoglobulin E, or IgE, antibodies, which target the gluten and attempt to rid it from the body, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. The antibodies cause the production of other chemicals throughout the body, such as histamine. Histamine is one of the primary chemicals in the body that causes inflammation and irritation in soft tissues.
Watery eyes are commonly caused by seasonal allergies, such as an allergy to pollen, mold or dust, but can develop during any allergic reaction. If you accidentally ingest gluten, mast cells located in or around your eyes produce histamine, leading to irritation. The irritation from increased histamine levels will cause eye itching, redness and swelling around the eyes. Although the eyes will be itchy, avoid scratching them because it can lead to further irritation.
Treat watery eyes from gluten intolerance by avoiding gluten. If you’ve been diagnosed with a gluten allergy and you consume products that contain the protein, you are at risk of developing more severe symptoms. If you accidentally ingest gluten and develop watery eyes, take an oral antihistamine, advises MedlinePlus. Oral antihistamines will restrict the body from creating histamine and reduce your symptoms. Antihistamine eye drops can also be used for immediate relief.
Avoiding gluten may be difficult because it is found in the majority of flour-based products. Purchase foods that are certified gluten-free. Most of these products use naturally gluten-free flour substitutes, such as rice, tapioca, soy or bean flours. Read product labels before ingesting the food and inform your server of your condition when eating out to avoid accidentally ingesting gluten.