Jan 8, 2014

Gluten allergy doesn't really exist

A leading allergy doctor has debunked a host of myths, saying that gluten allergy doesn't exist - and nor do hypoallergenic pets.

Dr David Stukus, an allergy specialist from Columbus, Ohio, wrote a presentation debunking various common allergy misconceptions after years of hearing patients declare inaccuracies. One pet peeve is the patients who say they can't eat bread because they're allergic to gluten, he says. "There's this claim about 'gluten allergy,' which really doesn't exist,"

"It's not really a recognised allergy. Wheat is a recognised allergy - but a lot of people will misinterpret that as gluten. Wheat allergy does not necessarily equal an allergy to all gluten. He continued: "Gluten has been blamed for all that ails humanity."

In fact, there are only three disorders that can be scientifically attributed to gluten, he says: coeliac disease, wheat allergies and non-coeliac gluten sensitivity. Coeliac disease is what's known as an autoimmune condition. This is where the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue.

Patients with non-coeliac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) display gluten sensitivity symptoms - such as bloating, diarrhoea and stomach pain - but test negative for the disease despite symptoms disappearing on a gluten-free diet. "If you think you may have an allergy, you should see a certified allergist for proper evaluation, testing, diagnosis and treatment," Dr Stukus said. Also in the firing line are so-called hypoallergenic dogs.

Dr Stukus said: "Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a truly hypoallergenic dog or cat. "Allergens are released in saliva, sebaceous glands and perianal glands. It's not the fur people are allergic to. "It is true that some breeds are more bothersome for allergy sufferers than others" - which is why some people are fine around some breeds and not others.

"Many early medical beliefs have been proven to be incorrect as research has advanced. Unfortunately, some of these beliefs are still on the Internet, where an astonishing 72%  of users turn to for health information."

Another widely circulated myth is that people suffering from an egg allergy can't have such jabs - as they may include tiny bits of egg protein.

He explained: "Egg embryos are used to grow viruses for vaccines such as the flu, yellow fever and rabies shots. "However, it's now safe to get the flu shot, which can help prevent serious illness, but a referral to an allergist is recommended beforehand is recommended."

He also advises against home allergy tests, which can be unreliable. 'These tests might be able to reveal sensitisation, but being sensitized to a certain allergen, like milk, doesn't mean you're allergic. "These sort of at-home screening tests are not reliable and can often lead to misinterpretation, diagnostic confusion and unnecessary dietary elimination."