Gluten Allergy | Asthma | Allergy

Gluten Allergy and Asthma

by Allergy Guy

Gluten allergy appears to have a strong link with asthma for many people.  But is it wheat or gluten that is to blame?

An article about Wheat, Gluten and Asthma on this site has generated tremendous interest and many dozens of comments supporting the idea that wheat or gluten causes asthma, or more accurately, that cutting out wheat or gluten reduces or eliminates asthma symptoms for at least some people.

It is hard to use the comments on this site as an accurate gauge since no one has commented to say that they cut out wheat and it was of no help.  Still, there seems to be a strong ling, and it would be interesting to know if a wheat-free/gluten-free diet would help all asthmatics or only those with a gluten allergy.

The other question is what the root cause of asthma is in these cases: gluten or wheat?  The distinction is important because asthmatics need to know if they should be avoiding all wheat (difficult but possible) or all gluten (more restrictive than avoiding wheat).

Certainly there are many people with a gluten allergy, and one possible gluten allergy symptom is asthma.  It is also possibly more related to celiac disease.

What I have noticed, as far as gluten-allergy and dietary restrictions go, is that avoiding gluten is probably easier than avoiding wheat, as odd as this may sound.  More servers, cooks and chefs in restaurants understand gluten-free than wheat-free, and there are more and more gluten-free products coming out on supermarket shelves.  By simply going gluten-free, you avoid all wheat and it just seems easier.

When it comes to cooking at home though, it is a little different.  There are certainly more choices when you just eliminate wheat and can cook with barely, rye and oats than when you avoid all gluten.

If you are asthmatic and have been avoiding wheat and have noticed some improvement, I suggest you try avoiding all gluten to see if that provides further improvement.  I don’t think you will find it too hard.

What are your experiences with gluten allergy and asthma?  Please leave a comment.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Ellen October 29, 2014 at 13:41

I’ve had “exercise induced asthma” since puberty. I discovered over ten years ago, while trying one of the low-carb diets, or more accurately, going off one of the low-carb diets, that eating wheat was directly linked to the sensation of my throat closing off, and the sensation of mucous in my lungs. Since that time, I’ve had the opportunity to repeatedly test wheat, rye, and barley, for example, when nestle changed their ingredients on some product and I didn’t read the label that one time. These days, eating gluten isn’t just an “exercise induced asthma” trigger. It also sometimes leads to other gluten-dependent exercise induced reactions like full body itching, nausea, lightheadedness, uncontrollable sneezing, swollen lips and puffy eyes, or hives, but usually it is just not being able to breathe well. Gluten + exercise within 36 hours = “asthma”. Gluten + aspirin/ibuprofen = “asthma.” Gluten + nighttime = “asthma.” Yes, rye and barley also provoke symptoms for me. Oats do not.

Before I figured it out, I was using Proventil daily, and also flovent, which wasn’t enough. These days, I have no maintenance meds, and I use Proventil around 1-2 times per year, usually due to label-reading error on my part. My symptoms as a whole indicate an allergy, though I always come up negative on the allergy tests. Of note, I can always tell when I’ve eaten gluten, as my throat will tighten just a little bit within 5 minutes.

This year, I qualified for Olympic distance triathlon nationals. Essentially, I am asthma-free without gluten, and I intend to stay that way, because breathing through a straw while scratching myself raw is no way to live life.


2 Karin January 2, 2014 at 14:55

I know I have an environmental allergy to Juniper/ Cedar. Two years ago when I hit this allergen season I needed a steriod shot to get asthma and other symptoms under control. Last year I was on a gluten-free diet and had no symptoms at all from the Juniper/ Cedar season. This year, I’m off the diet and the allergy symptoms returned with avengeance. So it seems like gluten in concert with the environmental allergen is the issue for me.


3 Allergy Guy January 2, 2014 at 18:28

Thanks for your story, Karin. It does sound like a strong connection, that you need both gluten and either juniper or cedar to trigger asthma.
Do you find sticking to a gluten free diet to be difficult?


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