Gluten intolerance may be wildly over-diagnosed, warns nutritionist
06/19/2017 // Tim Wesley // Views

Listen up: You are more likely to experience allergic reactions from eating fruits and vegetables than gluten, according to a paper published in the Clinical & Experimental Allergy. Although many claim that they're allergic to gluten, the study showed that only one percent of people actually have a reaction to wheat compared to the two percent that's allergic to fresh produce.

Dr. Isabel Skypala of the Imperial College London found that a little-known condition called Pollen Food Syndrome affects two percent of people, which is double the actual number of gluten allergy sufferers. This condition is triggered by allergens found in peaches, celery, carrots, and apples. This allergic reaction can cause symptoms that are similar to allergic rhinitis (hay fever): runny nose, itchy eyes, mouth or skin, fatigue, and congestion. In more extreme cases, the throat may close up.

“Three-quarters of people come to my clinic convinced they have a problem with wheat and dairy, and have already cut them out. In fact allergies linked to fruit and vegetables are far more prevalent. I have seen a man who went into anaphylactic shock after drinking carrot juice. It is raw produce which causes the problem, but people simply have no awareness of this type of allergy, because wheat allergies are seen as so much more fashionable,” the dietitian who runs a food allergy clinic said.

Furthermore, she found that out of almost 3,600 randomly selected patients, 73 suffer from Pollen Food Syndrome. Also called oral allergy syndrome, this condition occurs in individuals who are allergic to pollen from trees, grasses, or weeds. These pollens contain proteins -- similar to the ones found in fruits and vegetables -- that trigger allergic reactions in certain people. The most common foods that can cause the reaction are hazelnuts, peaches, apples, and kiwi.


Her findings put the number of afflicted people at two percent of the population, double the number of those who have celiac disease. Only one in 100 people suffer from this autoimmune disease. This condition damages the small intestine after ingesting gluten. But while some individuals need to avoid gluten, most people don't have to, according to the Celiac Disease Foundation.

Dr. Skypala added that fruits like cherries and apples, and vegetables like celery contain allergens that are similar to the ones found in birch pollen. She recognized that this can become a significant problem and has the potential to turn into an epidemic in the coming years. “The body reacts to them as it does with hayfever, although people often don't pick up on the allergy until they get more serious symptoms from nuts, which contain the same proteins,” she further stated.

Based on earlier research, women are most likely to suffer from the allergy and that fruits cause this problem more often than vegetables. Cherries and plums are among those that can trigger the reaction. The symptoms can be mild for most people, with fruits and vegetables causing itching and swelling in the mouth. But for those who have asthma, the reactions can be more serious. They can experience problems breathing and their throats can close up completely. According to Dr. Skypala, pollution and climate change could be among the causes of the rise in the number of people with hayfever.

Since fruits and vegetables can make you more susceptible to allergic reactions, Dr. Skypala warns against drinking too much smoothies, especially after a U.S. study found that gluten-free fad diets have the potential to put people at risk of type-2 diabetes because they lack nutrients.

Learning that fruits and vegetables can cause potentially fatal allergic reactions is alarming especially since we are made to believe that these superfoods are beneficial to the body. But the takeaway here is that balance is key. Too much or too little can cause health concerns.

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