Allergies to White Bread

A food allergy develops when the body has an abnormal response to a certain food or ingredient. In the case of white bread, the allergen is typically wheat. Because symptoms can be extreme and affect the quality of life, it's important to understand why an allergy to white bread occurs and how you can treat it.

Woman holding a plate of toasted white bread. (Image: kazoka30/iStock/Getty Images)

Common Causes

An allergy to white bread appears when the body mistakes a protein in wheat as harmful. As a result, the immune system produces antibody proteins called immunoglobulin E, which trigger the symptoms of an allergic reaction. A true allergy involves the immune system -- a doctor can detect the IgE protein using a skin prick test. Besides white bread, wheat is also found in foods like oatmeal, rolls, sweet cakes, pasta, cereals and drink mixes. Allergylike symptoms can also be due to celiac disease, which is an immune system reaction to the protein in wheat. Although celiac disease causes similar symptoms, it is not a true allergy. The immune system does not release IgE into the blood but instead releases anti-tissue transglutaminase antibodies into the blood. In addition, allergylike symptoms after eating white bread can be due to a food intolerance, which is caused by a reaction to the chemicals found in white bread. A food intolerance is not a true allergic reaction because it does not involve the immune system at all.

Symptom Check

A white bread allergy can cause a variety of symptoms that range from mild to severe. Symptoms can include hives, a burning sensation on the tongue or in the mouth, redness of the face, stomach cramps, swelling of the face, vomiting, diarrhea, a hoarse voice, problems swallowing, nausea, light-headedness and nasal congestion. You can also experience itching of the eyes, throat, mouth or skin.

Help Is on the Way

Talk to your doctor if you suspect you have an allergy to white bread. A physician or allergy specialist can perform tests to make sure that the protein found in white bread is indeed the cause of your symptoms. In the meantime, take an over-the-counter antihistamine like diphenhydramine to help manage mild to moderate symptoms like itching, rash, hives and sneezing. Your doctor may also suggest a topical or oral steroid such as cortisone to help relieve symptoms. Avoid white bread and all products that contain wheat. Read all product labels carefully before you eat any food. Choose wheat-free alternatives when cooking, such as tapioca, rye, quinoa, barley, corn and rice. If your symptoms are due to celiac disease, the only true remedy is to follow a gluten-free diet throughout your life. In addition, a doctor can prescribe an anti-inflammatory medication as the intestines heal. You can treat food intolerances by avoiding white bread. Or you can gradually build up tolerance by slowly increasing the amount of bread that you eat each day until the unpleasant side effects are gone.

When It’s Serious

Call for emergency services if you have difficulty breathing, lose and then regain consciousness, experience wheezing or have severe swelling in your throat. These can be signs of a severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. If not immediately treated, anaphylaxis can be life-threatening. Your doctor may suggest that you carry an injectable form of epinephrine with you at all times to help treat the symptoms of anaphylaxis.

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