What is wheat intolerance?

Wheat intolerance is the hallmark of celiac disease, a condition that damages the lining of the small intestine and disturbs the body’s ability to absorb nutrients. Celiac disease is also known as celiac sprue, or gluten intolerance. The damage to the intestine that occurs with this condition is due to an immune reaction against gluten, a protein that is found in wheat, barley and rye. After the small intestine has been damaged, it cannot efficiently absorb nutrients and malnutrition is the result.

Celiac disease often results in abdominal cramping, pain, and nausea. A number of other symptoms may occur, and symptoms vary in intensity among affected individuals. Some people may not even have symptoms until later complications of malnutrition develop. More than two million people in the United States suffer from celiac disease.

People who have celiac disease often have other autoimmune conditions, such as type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and thyroid disease. A number of people with celiac disease develop a skin rash known as dermatitis herpetiformis.

Treatment of celiac disease involves following a gluten-free diet. This diet will eliminate symptoms and prevent further damage to the small intestine. Gradually, with a gluten-free diet, the damage to the small intestine will heal in the majority of cases. The gluten-free diet must be followed for life, as even a small amount of gluten in the diet can activate the immune reaction and cause further damage.

Rarely does wheat intolerance result in serious symptoms. However, if severe diarrhea is left untreated, severe dehydration and electrolyte imbalances can result in shock or coma and may be life threatening. Seek prompt medical care if you develop diarrhea and vomiting. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, have symptoms of severe dehydration, such as confusion, lethargy, loss of consciousness, cold skin, or reduced urine production.


What are the symptoms of wheat intolerance?

Wheat intolerance causes damage to the small intestine that may result in a number of symptoms. The symptoms can vary in intensity among individuals.

Gastrointestinal symptoms of wheat intolerance

You may experience wheat intolerance symptoms daily or just once in a while. At times any of these wheat intolerance symptoms can be severe:


What causes wheat intolerance?

Wheat intolerance is commonly associated with a family history of the disorder. The exact cause is unknown, but when a person with celiac disease consumes products containing gluten, the body’s immune response to the gluten damages the lining of the small intestine. This intestinal damage leads to malnutrition and related complications.

What are the risk factors for wheat into... Read more about wheat intolerancecauses


How is wheat intolerance treated?

Treatment for wheat intolerance begins with seeking medical care from your health care provider. To determine whether you have wheat intolerance, your health care provider will ask questions related to your dietary intake (what you eat) and the symptoms you are experiencing. You may be asked to undergo diagnostic testing.

Treatment of celiac disease involves following a gluten-fre... Read more about wheat intolerancetreatments

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Sep 20, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Digestive System, Celiac Disease

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