Gluten is not technically an allergen since the reactions experienced are not usually allergic reactions but a range of different gluten/wheat triggered conditions. So it’s still included on allergen lists to make customers aware of its presence in food.
Gluten allergies and intolerances are something that cause huge problems in restaurants, although neither actually exist. Most restaurants experience gluten-free customers each day and gluten free can range from a customer avoiding gluten for their diet to a customer avoiding high levels of gluten due to coeliac disease. It is important that we make no assumptions when it comes to these customers. A lot of these special requests will be preference or diet related. However, taking insufficient care could result in symptoms such as nausea, mouth ulcers, and anaemia and coeliac.
Different types of gluten conditions:
Non-coeliac gluten sensitivity
Let’s address the only true allergy in this list first. Wheat contains gluten. However, people with a wheat allergy will be able to consume things like rye, barley, and oats which also contain gluten as long as they avoid wheat specifically. This is because the allergic reaction is caused by the wheat proteins and not the gluten. Wheat must be declared in food packaging by law. However, wheat, barley, and rye can often be labelled simply as ‘contains gluten’ so always check for which grain this refers to.
Types of Wheat and its Forms
Wheat is classified as all cereals of the tritium species, which include:
Monosodium glutamate (MSG) can also be derived from wheat. However, the production process breaks down the proteins enough to a form that is unlikely to cause reactions unless the individual has an extreme case of wheat allergy.
Products that Contain Wheat
Dried roasted nuts
Fruit pie fillings
Malt vinegar (malt is a by-product of grains which potentially contains wheat)
The following 3 varieties of gluten sensitivity are adopted terms to explain a varying degree of one of the causes of reactions to gluten or wheat (celiac disease, non-celiac disease, gluten, ataxia, gluten sensitivity or dermatitis herpetiformis or wheat allergy). Since they are so widely used it is important that it features in this list to prevent confusion with the real causes of these symptoms and categorizing people with separate conditions under the same umbrella. Whilst they may not be true allergens,from a chef’s point of view they should be treated in the same way and with the same care as allergies as they can still be harmful.
Affecting 1 in 3,300 people this is known more commonly as gluten rash. It is a red and extremely itchy skin rash. This is why people can easily adopt the term gluten allergy. Medically, an allergy to gluten is unrecognized and the term has been adopted by the use of online medical forums and word of mouth.
The rash is caused by clogs in small blood vessels of the skin where antibodies latch on to gluten proteins believing them to be a threat to the body and release a chemical called complement which causes the rash. This can also damage the parts of the intestines that allow the absorption of vitamins and minerals.
Coeliac disease is a disorder in which your immune system responds abnormally to gluten. Eating gluten as a coeliac will cause your immune system to destroy your villi, parts of the small intestine that are responsible for absorbing nutrients. Without healthy villi, coeliacs can become malnourished and unable to absorb the vitamins and minerals needed for bodily functions. This is an extremely serious condition and all steps must be taken to avoid gluten contamination.
Non-Coeliac Gluten Sensitivity (NCGS)
NCGS refers to people without coeliac disease who still experience uncomfortable symptoms when consuming gluten-containing foods. This is the most common condition and can be mislabelled as gluten intolerance. This is not particularly dangerous like coeliac disease, however, you must take steps to prevent contamination to avoid any uncomfortable side effects for NCGS customers.
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