Wheat and flour on a hard surface.

Gluten Sensitivity, Wheat Sensitivity and Wheat Allergy

In recent years, dietary sensitivities and intolerances have gained significant attention as more people seek to understand and manage their digestive health. Among these, gluten sensitivity and wheat sensitivity are commonly discussed, often interchangeably. However, these conditions are distinct, even though they are quite similar still. To add to the confusion is wheat allergy. While they all have similarities, there are some important distinctions between the three.

What is Gluten Sensitivity?

Gluten sensitivity, also known as non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS), is a condition characterized by adverse reactions to gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. This condition differs significantly from celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder where gluten intake leads to damage in the small intestine.

In gluten sensitivity, there is generally no such intestinal damage, but individuals still experience a range of uncomfortable symptoms. The exact mechanisms behind gluten sensitivity are not fully understood, but it is recognized as a genuine medical condition requiring dietary modifications to manage symptoms effectively.

Wheat and flour on a hard surface.

What is Wheat Sensitivity?

Wheat sensitivity, also known as non-celiac wheat sensitivity (NCWS), is a condition where individuals experience adverse reactions to consuming wheat. This condition involves reactions to various components in wheat, including gluten, amylase-trypsin inhibitors, and other proteins. Unlike gluten sensitivity, which is specifically related to gluten, wheat sensitivity encompasses a broader range of wheat components.

Symptoms of NCGS and NCWS

The symptoms of gluten and wheat sensitivities are pretty similar and can include:

  • Bloating and gas
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Abdominal pain
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Joint and muscle pain
  • Skin rashes
  • Depression or anxiety

These symptoms can occur after consuming wheat or gluten and typically improve when it is eliminated from the diet.

What is a Wheat Allergy?

A wheat allergy is an immune system reaction to proteins found in wheat. A wheat allergy is specifically characterized by the production of immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies in response to wheat proteins. This allergic reaction can be triggered by consuming wheat or, in some cases, by inhaling wheat flour. Wheat allergy can affect individuals of all ages but is most common in children. Managing a wheat allergy typically involves avoiding wheat in all forms, including obvious sources like bread and pasta, as well as hidden sources in processed foods and various products.

Symptoms of Wheat Allergy

The symptoms of wheat allergy can include:

  • Skin reactions such as hives or eczema
  • Nasal congestion
  • Asthma-like symptoms
  • Gastrointestinal distress, including nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
  • Anaphylaxis in severe cases

Wheat allergy symptoms can occur within minutes to hours after consuming wheat products.

A Pinterest pin with wheat.

Immune Response and Affected Proteins

The primary difference between these conditions lies in the body’s immune response. Gluten and wheat sensitivities involves a non-immune reaction to gluten or wheat. A wheat allergy, however, involves an immune response to various proteins found in wheat.

Gluten sensitivity specifically involves a reaction to gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. Wheat sensitivity and allergy can involve reactions to multiple components within wheat, including gluten and other proteins.

Diagnostic Criteria

Diagnosing gluten sensitivity typically involves ruling out celiac disease and wheat allergy through medical tests and monitoring symptom improvement on a gluten-free diet. Wheat sensitivity can be diagnosed by excluding other conditions and observing symptom changes with wheat elimination. Wheat allergy is diagnosed through allergy testing, such as skin prick tests, blood tests, or food challenges.


The primary management tool is a gluten-free or wheat-free diet. This involves eliminating all foods containing gluten or wheat, including wheat itself, barley, rye, and their derivatives. Many processed foods contain hidden sources of gluten and wheat, so careful label reading is essential. It is important to create a healthful eating plan as sometimes this can lead to nutritional deficiencies.

While it might seem overwhelming at first to remove gluten or wheat, it is really pretty easy. If you head on over to trinakrug.com, you can find a ton of amazing gluten-free recipes. Every recipe on this site is gluten-free and most are low-carb.

Reading Labels

Living with gluten sensitivity, wheat sensitivity, or a wheat allergy requires a heightened level of vigilance, particularly when it comes to reading labels. It’s essential to meticulously check ingredient lists on all packaged foods. Look for certified gluten-free labels, which ensure the product meets strict standards for gluten content.

Additionally, be aware of potential cross-contamination in manufacturing processes, as even trace amounts of gluten or wheat can trigger reactions. Individuals with wheat sensitivity or wheat allergy should also look for products labeled as wheat-free, which may not necessarily be gluten-free. Familiarizing yourself with hidden sources of wheat and gluten, such as in sauces, soups, and processed foods, is crucial for maintaining your health and well-being.

Dining Out

Dining out presents unique challenges for individuals with gluten sensitivity, wheat sensitivity, or wheat allergy. It’s important to communicate your dietary needs clearly and assertively to restaurant staff, including servers and chefs. Choose establishments known for their gluten-free or allergy-friendly menus, and don’t hesitate to ask detailed questions about food preparation methods to ensure your meal is safe.

Many restaurants are becoming increasingly aware of dietary sensitivities and offer specific options or modifications to accommodate guests. When in doubt, opt for simple, whole foods that are less likely to contain hidden allergens. Planning ahead by researching restaurant menus and calling ahead can make dining out a more enjoyable and stress-free experience.

Always understand that even if you are eating an inherently gluten-free (or wheat-free) food item, restaurants may cook them in gluten-containing oils or cross-contamination may occur in the kitchen. Asking about cooking and preparation methods is definitely something to help mitigate potential issues.

Wrapping Up

Understanding the differences between gluten sensitivity, wheat sensitivity, and wheat allergy is crucial for effective management and improving quality of life. While all these conditions require dietary adjustments, the specific proteins involved and the body’s response to them vary. By identifying the correct condition and implementing appropriate dietary changes, individuals can manage their symptoms and enjoy a healthier, more comfortable life.

For those seeking personalized guidance, consulting with a healthcare provider or a nutritionist specializing in food sensitivities can provide tailored advice and support. Whether dealing with gluten sensitivity, wheat sensitivity, or wheat allergy, knowledge and proactive management are key to thriving with these conditions.

Ready to uncover your food sensitivities and take the next step towards better health?
For more information, visit Reveal Your Triggers and take the first step towards finding hidden intolerances and allergies such as this one and work towards a healthier you.

DisclaimerThese statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The contents of this article, made available via The Happy Body Project (Holistic Fit LLC), are for informational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice. The Content presented here is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. If you think you may be suffering from any medical condition, you should seek immediate medical attention. You should never delay seeking medical advice, disregard medical advice, or discontinue medical treatment because of information provided by The Happy Body Project (Holistic Fit LLC). Reliance on any information provided by this article is solely at your own risk.





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