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Bread intolerance and bread allergy

Bread intolerance and bread allergy

Breads are a big part of most peoples’ day-to-day diet. We put toppings on it; make meals, like sandwiches, and even create recipes, like bread pudding, from it. But if you’ve noticed your body react after eating bread, then it may be time to look at this common culprit of allergy and intolerance. In today’s article, we’ll look into the different reasons why you might be reacting to bread and what you can do to test for bread allergy and bread intolerance.

Bread allergy

An allergy is an immune reaction to a trigger, known as an allergen. The allergen is very often harmless, but the immune system mistakenly perceives it as a threat and attempts to fight it off. The allergy then develops as the immune system creates particular ‘memory’ proteins to recognise the allergen and mount a response to it. During an allergic reaction, the immune system produces chemicals, like histamine, that cause symptoms like rashes and swelling.

Bread contains several allergens that your immune system could react to.The most common allergens used as staple ingredients in bread are wheat flour and yeast. If you have an allergy to one of these ingredients, any exposure to the allergen – either eating, touching, or inhaling it – can cause an allergic reaction.

Symptoms of a bread allergy

If you have a wheat allergy or yeast allergy, you could experience allergy symptoms like:

  • skin rashes or welts (known as hives or urticaria)
  • a congested or runny nose
  • sneezing
  • coughing
  • wheezing, or a flare-up of asthma
  • headaches or dizziness
  • nausea (or vomiting, rarely)
  • indigestion
  • tummy pain or cramps
  • diarrhoea
A severe allergic reaction, known as anaphylaxis, can cause swelling of the airways and put the body into shock (leading to fainting, loss of consciousness, and other life-threatening symptoms). However, an anaphylactic reaction to wheat or yeast is uncommon.

Risk of developing bread allergy

Your risk of developing any allergy, including an allergy to wheat or yeast, is greater if you have a family who has allergies or allergic diseases (such as eczema and asthma). This risk is increased if both your parents have allergies.

Wheat allergy is most common in young children, who have immature guts and immune systems, and generally outgrow the allergy by adolescence. It can also develop in adults who have hay fever (and cross-reactivity with grass pollen).

Bread intolerance

A bread intolerance happens when your body doesn’t digest bread well. It is not an immune reaction like a bread allergy is.

An intolerance to bread can be caused by the poor digestion of any of the ingredients used to make the bread. The most common ingredients that people react to are the grains (like wheat), yeast, and dairy (if present).

Intolerance symptoms

In wheat, two primary components trigger intolerance. These are:

  1. gluten– the protein in wheat, rye and barley (and some other popular grains used to make bread)
  2. FODMAPs– the sugars found in wheat and other grains
FODMAPs is an acronym for a group of foods that contain poorly absorbed sugars. These sugars are not absorbed well by anyone, but they are a particular problem for people with a sensitive gut, like those with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and wheat intolerance. The sugars pull water into the intestines, causing it to bloat.

They can cause excessive gas production by feeding bacteria in the colon. People with IBS can experience tummy cramps and discomfort when this gas becomes trapped or when the increased water leads to loose bowel motions or diarrhoea.

There is some controversy overwhether people who choose to follow a gluten-free diet are, in fact, sensitive to gluten. Some research suggests that these people may be reacting to the FODMAP sugars in gluten-containing products. The FODMAP sugars (particularly fructans) are high in breads that contain gluten and are low in gluten-free bread. It has been proposed that people who experience symptom relief by changing to a gluten-free diet are benefiting from a reduction in FODMAP intake, not from the removal of gluten.

Symptoms of bread intolerance

If you have an intolerance to bread, you will most likely experience digestive symptoms, like bloating and gas, because the intolerance is caused by poor digestion of the bread. Other symptoms, like headaches or fatigue, are often secondary to digestive complaints.

The symptoms of bread, yeast and wheat intolerance can include:

  • bloating
  • gas
  • indigestion
  • nausea
  • abdominal pain or cramps
  • changes in bowel motions, e.g. constipation, diarrhoea, or alternating motions
  • headaches
  • brain fog
  • unexplained fatigue (especially after eating bread)
  • skin issues, e.g. rashes or acne

How to test for allergy and intolerance

To test for allergies, your doctor may conduct blood tests or refer you to a specialist for a skin prick test. You may also be referred to a dietician to guide you through an elimination diet and food challenge test.

To test for food intolerances, you can speak with a dietician or nutritionist about keeping a food diary and how to complete anelimination diet. Specific testing for food intolerances can also be conducted. Examples of this include breath testing for FODMAP sugar intolerance and our lab’s food intolerance test. We offer a fast and straightforward test that looks at over 350 foods that you could be reacting to. The test can be ordered online HERE and will give you results within 3 days of our lab receiving your sample.

When testing for reactions to bread or other grains, it’s important to exclude coeliac disease. Coeliac disease is an autoimmune reaction to gluten. It shares some similar symptoms to bread allergy and intolerance, including digestive symptoms, skin issues (like hives and blistering skin), and fatigue. Coeliac disease can also cause mood changes (like anxiety and depression), unexplained weight loss, joint and muscle aches, tingling/numb arms and legs, and nutrient deficiencies (like low iron and vitamin B12). To test for coeliac disease, your doctor will arrange for you to have some blood tests (like coeliac antibodies) and a small bowel biopsy.

Summary

Today we looked at different types of reactions to eating bread. This includes a bread or wheat allergy or an allergy to other ingredients in bread, such as yeast. Having an allergy to bread or its ingredients causes the immune system to overreact and produce chemicals like histamine. These chemicals cause the symptoms of allergy and anaphylaxis (a serious form of allergic reaction). This reaction is different from bread intolerance, which is caused by poor digestion of gluten or FODMAP sugars. Today we explored a range of testing for bread allergy and intolerance, as well as testing to exclude coeliac disease. If you suspect that you may be reacting to eating bread, then speak with your practitioner or order our intolerance test online today.

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