Gluten allergy, I was so wrong!

Gluten allergy

Gluten allergy, hmm.  I’d wondered in my last blog if I was likely to be able to say all I wanted to about gluten in a single blog.  I do like a challenge. But there is so much to talk about here that it might take more than one. Hope that you enjoy reading what I share! Ok, I’ll give it a go, but where to start?

Back to the beginning of developing my ideas for allergen free cake kits I guess, and first food allergen that came to mind was gluten.  I put this down to thinking that gluten allergy/wheat allergy was the first food allergy to have a major awareness in health related testing.

That last statement shows my initial ignorance. Because for the longest time I thought ‘gluten allergy’ and ‘wheat allergy’ were interchangeable terms. But they are not and I’m not sure how well people understand this. I certainly didn’t when I started out developing our kits.

Rather than come up with my own explanation for the difference here is one provided by Coeliac UK. 

‘Coeliac disease is not the same as an allergy to wheat. Coeliac disease is a well defined, serious illness where the body’s immune system attacks itself when gluten is eaten. This causes damage to the lining of the gut and means that the body cannot properly absorb nutrients from food. Coeliac disease is not a food allergy or intolerance, it is an autoimmune disease. Wheat allergy is a reaction to proteins found in wheat, triggered by the immune system and usually occurs within seconds or minutes of eating.’

Gluten and oats

I had a bit of a light-bulb moment when I read that, because it finally explained the reasoning behind the allergy listings. Until that point I’d thought that ‘gluten’ was one of the 14 European Union listed food allergens. But it isn’t, the actual term is ‘Cereals containing gluten’. See this useful EU listing information sheet provided by the Food Standards Agency. (NB: My personal opinion is that listing this way gives rise to some of the confusion, although I can’t suggest a better way.  I’d be very happy to hear from you if you can, email me at Maggie@bakeitfreefrom.com)

So you might say, if you remove wheat then you’ve sorted the ‘allergies’ and perhaps you’d be right. But again in my mixed up thinking I’d made wheat = gluten. I did realise that I couldn’t use wheat in relation to food allergies but thought it was the ‘gluten allergy’ I was addressing.  In my mind I could therefore still use products such as gluten free oats and keep our pledge to be free from all 14 EU listed food allergens. After all, the ‘gluten allergy’ potential has been removed so they are safe, right? Wrong! As the Coeliac UK comments above show it is the wheat proteins that people with a wheat allergy are allergic to and not the gluten.

It’s the same with oats, as very knowledgeable allergy food blogger, Alex Gazzola shared with me. It took him a while, and patience, to help me to understand that it was the protein in oats that required them to be listed. Whether or not they were gluten free they were able to cause oat allergy. Sadly,we had to remove one of our range of home baking kits as a consequence.

A pat on the back for me… sort of

I hope you are still with me, because I’ve pretty much covered what I wanted to say about gluten. AND in a single blog too, although it is rather longer than I’d like!

So, assuming it is gluten that you’ve read this blog to read about and not wheat or oat allergy here is a recipe I’ve found. It’s for low fat and sugar flapjacks from BBC Good Foods  The recipe uses banana and apples in order to reduce the fat and sugar levels, as well as oats.

recipe-image-legacy-id--1255506_8

If gluten is a problem but not oat allergy then you can use gluten free oats. These are readily available in all major supermarkets.

The flapjacks are egg free. You can also make them dairy free by replacing the butter with a soya or sunflower spread.  This would also make them vegan. Very easy to make, maybe these are something for the kids to cook and enjoy over the weekend?

My next blog will talk about nuts, and peanut. These are very different and so are separately listed food allergens.

Wishing you happy times until then.  Do please get in touch if you have any questions, or another topic that you would like me to cover.

Title photo ‘Gluten-free’ by Nick Youngson, licensed by CC BY-SA 3.0

Comments 5

  1. Thank you for the mention!
    Believe it or not, though, it’s possible that people with wheat allergy *do* react to gluten (which is a wheat protein, after all) – although they probably react to the many other non-gluten proteins found in wheat.
    Here is a study showing evidence of a gliadin allergy (gliadin is a component of gluten).
    Alex.

    1. Post
      Author

      You are welcome! Yes, I did think to put something in to that effect but I’d written so much already that I decided not to and instead keep it to a simplistic either/or situation. Thanks for sharing your information, hopefully it too will get shared.

    1. Post
      Author

      Thanks for saying that, and glad if I’ve helped. It’s not the easiest thing to understand due, I think,to the way the food allergens are listed.

      In fact I think I have come up with a solution for that. Cereals and Gluten as two separate food allergies. Then we would deal with the cereal protein allergies for one and the autoimmune disease via the other. With no need to identify ‘gluten’ as a food allergen in something like ‘gluten free oats’ (just ‘oats’ as their own food allergy listing. Seems to me this would be much more helpful to people eating foods and food businesses alike.

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