The definition of a gluten allergy can vary, depending on your definition of allergy it self. There is a strict, narrow definition, and a broader definition which is probably more useful to most people.
There is both the definition of allergy to consider, and the definition of gluten. We will look at both.The strictest definition of allergy is a type I hypersensitivity, involving an immediate onset allergic reaction (atopic, or anaphylactic).
I find this rather narrow. While this defines a more severe and measurable type of allergic reaction, there are more subtle allergic mechanisms at play.
A broader definition is that an allergic reaction is the body’s immune system reacting to something that is not a micro biotic threat to the body. A macrobiotic threat would be something large and heavy falling on your head. A micro biotic threat would be a virus or bacterial attack.
If you catch a cold, your body’s immune system deploys to eliminate the virus from your body. This make you tired and often reduces your ability to concentrate.
But what if your body were to react to gluten? Most people consider this part of a nutritious food (wheat). But if you have a gluten allergy, gluten is considered a threat by the immune system, causing a wide range of symptoms that vary from person to person (see gluten allergy symptoms for details).
The definition of gluten could be considered wide. Gluten actually occurs in all grains, including rice and corn. This is actually useful to know if you have a gluten allergy. Do you react to all gluten, or just “typical gluten“, the type of gluten celiacs react to, which is wheat, barely, rye and oats. Even with oats there is much debate, including whether it might be cross-contaminated with wheat, and whether certain strains are safe for celiacs.
This site defines a gluten allergy as any hypersensitivity to typical gluten. You may wish to include the gluten from other grains in this definition, at least to start out with, to see what you really react to, and then reintroduce each grain one by one until you find what you are good with and what makes you react. I suggest that you try grains from the typical gluten group last, and one by one, reintroducing them in the following order: oats, barely, rye, wheat.
What is your experience with a gluten allergy? How would you define it? Please leave a comment with your questions and opinions.