Buckwheat Flour Allergies

Buckwheat is finely ground, dark-colored flour. It is commonly used for breads, pancakes and waffles, and as a substitute for individuals allergic to wheat. It contains an extensive amount of proteins, thus an allergic reaction to buckwheat flour is not rare. If you experience a severe allergic reaction and problems breathing, seek immediate medical attention.

A buckwheat field. (Image: KEITA SAWAKI/a.collectionRF/amana images/Getty Images)

Buckwheat Health Benefits

Buckwheat is used as a substitute for rice, oats, barley and rye. It is also a great alternative for individuals who are allergic to wheat. Buckwheat belongs to the Polygonaceae group of weeds, and is an excellent source of fiber, vitamins and minerals. It contains eight essential amino acids including arginine, lysine, glycine, methionine and tryptophan, as well as rutin, a citrus flavonoid. This flavonoid promotes cardiovascular health by its ability to dilate blood vessels, improve the circulation of oxygenated blood, lower blood cholesterol, and prevent the oxidation of LDL by free radicals. Rutin prevents excessive blood clotting and decreases the permeability of blood vessels, and thus is used to treat high blood pressure, varicose veins, radiation damage and gout.

Allergic Reaction to Buckwheat Flour

Inhaling or ingesting small amounts of the buckwheat flour can result in an allergic reaction. Buckwheat contains highly potent allergens that trigger an allergic reaction via an IgE mediated response. The primary allergens identified in buckwheat include Fag e 1, Fag e 10kD, Fag e 16kD, Fag e 19kD and Fag e TI. The immune system recognizes these amino acid sequences as foreign and dangerous, and initiates the production of IgE antibodies. Pro-inflammatory immune cells, primarily mast cells and basophils, perpetuate the immune response by releasing histamine and other immune mediators. The release of histamine into the bloodstream results in the signs and symptoms associated with an allergic reaction.

Buckwheat Allergic Reaction Symptoms

Ingesting or inhaling buckwheat flour can lead to severe allergic reactions in sensitized individuals. Ingestion of buckwheat flour and the subsequent release of histamine causes itching, swelling and reddening of the mouth, lips and face. Swelling of the throat and airways can result from ingesting or inhaling buckwheat flour. The release of histamine into the bloodstream dilates and increases the permeability of capillaries, enabling fluids and toxins to leak to the top layer of the skin. Redness, inflammation and itching of the skin is commonly observed. Hives involved with swelling of the deeper layers of the skin are also common. Gastrointestinal symptoms including abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea are common. Inhalation of buckwheat flour can result in allergic rhinitis, watery, itchy eyes, pink eye, nasal congestion, wheezing, tightening of the chest and breathing difficulties. Dizziness, an inability to speak, asthma and shortness of breath are commonly observed in individuals exposed to buckwheat flour. In severe cases, an individual can experience a life-threatening allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis. If you experience dizziness, lightheadedness, swelling of the throat or airways, seek immediate medical attention.

Considerations

Buckwheat flour is a potent allergen, hence the only way to avoid an allergic reaction is to strictly avoid buckwheat and buckwheat flour. The allergens present in buckwheat flour are heat stable, therefore baking or cooking the flour will not reduce the risk of an adverse reaction. Individuals allergic to buckwheat can safely eat wheat, oat, rye and barley. Before buying bread or baked products, read the label and ingredient list, and ensure that the flour was milled separately from buckwheat. If you do develop a mild allergic reaction, over-the-counter corticorsteroids and antihistamines can help relieve the itching, redness and inflammation. Seek immediate medical attention if you experience a severe allergic reaction.

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