Medically reviewed on Sept 20, 2023 by Jordan Stachel, M.S., RDN, CPT. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.
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Celiac disease affects about 1% of the worldwide population, and the same can be said for wheat allergies. [1,2] However, they are not the same. The former is an autoimmune disease; it causes immune cells to attack the small intestine when you ingest gluten, limiting nutritional absorption and causing gastrointestinal issues. 
A wheat allergy, on the other hand, is a type of allergic reaction. It occurs when immunoglobulin E (IgE)-mediated antibodies recognize wheat protein as harmful to the body. As a result, people with wheat allergies can enter a state of anaphylaxis and/or gastrointestinal and respiratory distress if they consume wheat. 
Curious to know more about a wheat allergy vs. celiac disease? Let’s dig in.
Celiac disease is not characterized as a wheat intolerance or a gluten sensitivity. Rather, it’s a digestive and immune disorder. Accordingly, people with celiac disease will not typically experience symptoms common to allergies, such as hives or rashes. 
Instead, when people with celiac disease ingest gluten—which is found in wheat, barley, and rye—it makes its way to the small intestine and triggers immune cells that fight back against foreign invaders. 
Consequently, the immune system damages the lining of the small intestine, inhibiting its ability to effectively absorb nutrients into the bloodstream. This is what’s called ‘malabsorption’. 
In children, this condition can lead to stunted growth and development. For example, they may experience delayed puberty, have a shorter-than-average stature, or have learning disabilities. 
The intestinal damage caused by celiac disease can also lead to numerous gastrointestinal issues, such as :
Adults may also experience symptoms completely unrelated to the digestive system, and even some hidden symptoms of celiac disease. Some people may experience extreme levels of fatigue, while others can develop anemia if they have deficient iron levels. Additional issues that may arise as a result of celiac disease include :
In some cases, celiac disease—or, more specifically, a gluten intolerance—can develop into a type of skin condition called ‘dermatitis herpetiformis’ in which a rash appears across the body, typically on the elbows, knees, torso, scalp, and/or buttocks. 
Although there’s no cure for celiac disease, people can manage their symptoms with a gluten-free celiac disease diet plan. While wheat, barley, and rye are off-limits in a gluten-free diet, people with celiac disease can still consume certain types of grains, like amaranth, sorghum, quinoa,, and more. They can also safely eat :
Most often, celiac disease is genetic. Likely, if you have celiac disease, someone in your family does, too. Researchers have also found that a large number of infections early in life—specifically those that disrupt the gut’s microbiome—can make a person more susceptible to the disorder. 
To diagnose celiac disease, healthcare providers will conduct a physical assessment, assess your symptoms, consider the possibility of silent celiac disease, and administer two types of blood tests :
Wheat allergies more commonly develop in infants and toddlers whose immune and digestive systems are still developing. In these cases, the immune system overreacts to wheat protein when it enters the body, believing it’s a threat. 
The immune response triggers an allergic reaction, which can be deadly, particularly in the case of anaphylaxis. In some cases, the reaction may arise within minutes. In other cases, a reaction can take up to two days to manifest. This largely depends on the type of wheat allergy you have :
A wheat allergy may manifest with any of the following symptoms, which can range from mild to severe :
Anaphylaxis is particularly dangerous, leading to :
In this case, it’s critical to contact a healthcare provider immediately to receive care.
It’s believed that about 66% of children with wheat allergies do outgrow them. However, it’s also possible for adults to develop a cross-reactive allergy to wheat. Essentially, if you’re allergic to grass pollen, your body can wrongly interpret wheat protein (albumin, gliadin, globulin, or glutenas) as the pollen found in grass and initiate an immune response. 
While some children may outgrow their wheat allergies, there’s no direct way to eradicate the allergy completely. Instead, it’s best practice to avoid products that contain wheat entirely. In terms of food, these can include avoiding :
It’s also important to note that some non-food items can also contain wheat, particularly if they’re manufactured in the same factory as wheat-based products. Such items include Play-Doh, makeup, and toiletry items. Fortunately, in most cases, you can find this information on the product label. 
Unlike celiac disease, there are certain medications that can help treat and manage wheat allergies, including:
Similarly to celiac disease, your healthcare provider may choose to administer a blood test to diagnose a wheat allergy. However, there are also several alternative avenues of diagnosis including a :
Celiac disease and wheat allergies both involve a reaction to gluten. That said, celiac disease is an autoimmune response that can destroy the lining of the small intestine. Thus, the most predominant symptoms of celiac disease include gastrointestinal issues.
Wheat allergies, on the other hand, manifest when the immune system perceives wheat as a harmful invader. Accordingly, it’ll trigger an immune response that causes inflammation throughout the body and, in severe cases, anaphylaxis.
To assess your risk for either condition, adopt the help of Everlywell. Our At-Home Celiac Disease Test screens for 3 key antibodies that may indicate celiac disease, while our At-Home Food Allergy Test measures 9 IgE antibodies linked to certain food allergies. Plus, taking both tests is easy. You’ll simply finger prick at home, then send your sample to one of our CLIA-certified labs. Within days, you’ll receive your results, as well as advice from a licensed healthcare provider regarding next steps.
If you have questions about celiac disease and allergies, trust Everlywell to provide answers.