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Thursday, September 20, 2012

Oral Allergy Syndrome, Wheat Allergies and Cosmetics

Wheat Free Soap
Some of you may have wondered at seeing cosmetics now labelled “gluten free”.  You may even think this is taking things too far, jumping on the GF/celiac bandwagon and capitalizing on peoples’ paranoia.  It turns out it’s not just paranoia. AND, it turns out that even those without gluten allergies should be concerned.  

Those with Oral Allergy Syndrome (OAS) also need to be wary of wheat in cosmetics.  OAS, aka Pollen-Food Allergy, is a type of food allergy that many people with seasonal allergies suffer from.  Those with allergies to birch, alder, grass, ragweed, mugwort or latex can experience itchiness, swelling of the mouth, tongue and throat, indigestion and even anaphylaxis after exposure to foods that are related to the pollens they are allergic to. 

Wheat is one of the most common foods that OAS sufferers react to.  But studies have shown that OAS sufferers don’t just react to wheat that is ingested, but wheat that they are exposed to in the form of hydrolyzed wheat protein. 

Hydrolyzed wheat protein is a wheat-derived moisturizing ingredient that is common in cosmetics such as soap, lotions, shampoos, conditioners, body washes as well as in concealers, powders and other make-up products.  Research has shown that some people have experienced severe allergic reactions after using products with hydrolyzed wheat protein in them.   Cases have been documented in which people have developed rashes, eczema, itchiness, and even experienced anaphylactic shock after using moisturizers, soaps or make-ups that contain wheat products and hydrolyzed wheat protein.  

For example, in February 2012 a case was reported in which a 16 year old girl with OAS developed severe eczema after using a facial soap that contained hydrolyzed wheat proteins.[i]  In 2011, several cases of wheat-dependent exercise induced anaphylactic shock were reported in Japan.[ii] 

Even some people who did not suffer from allergies prior to using soaps with hydrolyzed wheat protein can develop an allergy to wheat after using the soap regularly over time.  A Japanese company is being sued for causing allergies and allergic reactions in people who had never before had allergies and who consistently used their “all-natural” soap with hydrolyzed wheat protein in it.[iii]

It's not just wheat products that OAS sufferers need to look out for.  Other OAS related foods can also cause a reaction if applied topically.  For example, a recent study found that a 16 year old boy with OAS developed perioral dermatitis (an itchy rash consisting of small red bumps) and tingling in his hands after handling apples on his father’s apple farm.[iv]   The Beth Israel Deconess Medical Centre notes, for example, that chamomile (on the OAS list) can cause a reaction even if it is in soaps, cosmetics or supplements.[v] 

So it seems that the best course of action is to scrutinize all labels and avoid anything with wheat or other OAS related foods in the label, in any shape or form.  Check you moisturizers, soaps, creams, make-ups, shampoos, conditioners and deodorants, folks, because anaphylactic shock is not a good price to pay for a fancy cosmetic product. 

Over the next few weeks I’ll be posting some of my own personal “recipes” for creating your own wheat and gluten free products at home using basic items found in your own house, such as deodorant, shampoo and conditioner.  For now, you might want to check out my posts on natural facial products such as Grape Seed Oil Moisturizer, LemonJuice and Brown Sugar Facial Scrub, and Yogurt and Honey Facial Mask.   

Looking for more research like this? Check out my new book Living with Oral Allergy Syndrome: A Gluten and Meat-Free Cookbook Wheat, Soy, Nut, Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Allergies or Order from here to get it in time for Christmas!

Looking for more info on Oral Allergy Syndrome? 
Check out some of these articles!

Allergic to Lettuce
If you’ve had any experience reacting to OAS related foods in cosmetics please share below! 

This post was shared on the following great sites: Fresh Bites Fridays, Freaky Friday, Fight Back Fridays, Gluten Free Fridays, Musings of a Housewife, Made From Scratch Monday,  The Healthy Home Economist, Slightly Indulgent Tuesday, Traditional Tuesday, Gluten Free Wednesdays, Allergy Free Wednesday,  Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways, Real Food Wednesday, Pennywise Platter, Eat, Make, Grow,  Keep it Real Thursdays,  Pennywise Thursdays,  Simple Lives Thursdays, 

[i] Wheat-dependent Exercise-induced Anaphylaxis Occurred in OAS Patient after Using Soap Containing Hydrolyzed Wheat Proteins: Effect of Soap on Keratinocyte Inflammasome. –
[ii] Hiragun M, et al., “The sensitivity and clinical course of patients with wheat-dependent exercise-induced anaphylaxis sensitized to hydrolyzed wheat protein in facial soap,” Arerugi. 2011 Dec;60(12):1630-40.
[iii] Christopher Wanjek, “Facial Soap's Surprise Wheat Ingredient Triggers Allergies,” LiveScience Bad Medicine Columnist.  April 24,  2012.
[iv] Priyamvada Tatachar and Smita Kumar, “Food-induced Anaphylaxis and Oral Allergy Syndrome,” Pediatrics in Review, Vol. 29 No. 4 April 1, 2008, pp. e23 -e27


  1. Thank you for sharing, this was very informative! ;) I have tweeted and pinned this post to our Gluten Free Fridays board :) Cindy

  2. Thanks for linking up to Eat Make Grow!
    FYI - we've decided to keep our blog hop more narrowly focused to recipes, gardening tips, and crafts that have been written/cooked etc by our bloggers. Although this post is super informative, it doesn't quite fit that bill. I'm leaving it, since it definitely involves 'eating" but in the future, please link to posts that are more about recipes/crafts etc that you've actually made vs just info. Thanks!

  3. ps, please also post a link back to our hop. :)

  4. Hi Miranda,
    Thanks for stopping by and commenting, and hosting! You must have come by just after I posted and was updating the links on this page :) The link to Eat, Make, Grow is up. Thanks for leaving the post up, on the bottom are links to food based, homemade cosmetics such as a moisturizer, face mask and face scrub, if that helps at all!

  5. OAS sounds awful! So many people suffer from so many things out there! Diet is important, but to have to be wary of every product used on top of that it must be hard.

  6. Hi Lyza, thanks for stopping by :) OAS does suck pretty badly sometimes, but the good thing about it is that it's forced me to be a vigilante about what I eat! I'm much more aware of our food system now and the importance of clean, healthy eating!

  7. Hi! I really like the look of your site. Haven't explored it much yet, but I'm looking for recipes to take the place of manufactured items such as make-up, eye drops, etc. or over-the-counter, less expensive gluten-free vitamins, supplements, etc. Also, gluten-free food recipes that have no eggs, dairy, or grains & taste good are hard to find. I'm very allergic plus I am hypo-thyroid but I can't take the supplement (synthetic or natural) to help me because of my sensitivities. I did go to a holistic doctor, who prescribed Superoxydedismutase cream (S.O.D.) to be applied 3 times daily. That has helped enormously. But, I still have allergies & must be gluten free. Any suggestions? Please. Thanks so much.

    1. Hi Jeanette, my blog is mostly recipes, all are gluten free and most have egg and dairy free options. I have a few articles and recipes for natural skin-care stuff (found under the recipes page and natural beauty and cleaning), but I also recommend checking the Waste Not Want Not Wednesday posts where other bloggers share their recipes and homemade natural products.

      One that was shared this past week might be especially helpful for you, it's an article on methods for healing hypothyroidism naturally -

      I hope that helps a little bit :)

  8. Though this was posted last year, I am compelled to comment on this post. I find this fascinating, as a cosmetic chemist. Considering the fact that in the process of hydrolyzing wheat into a protein, the gluten is removed, I seriously doubt the reactions the people you are referring to is from gluten - and the culprit is hydrolyzed wheat.

    hydrolyzed wheat protein is a process in which only the protein of the wheat is utilized through the hydrolyzation process e.g. "hydrolyzed, wheat, protein"

    My educated guess would be the OAS cases you pointed out in your blog were probably from something else in the product.

    In the cosmetic chemist world, we have studied this extensively and there is simply nothing to support these claims, otherwise, Celiac sufferers would be dropping dead left and right.

    1. Hi Kristen,

      Thanks for stopping by and offering your input. Please note, though, that the article is more geared towards those with wheat allergies and oral allergy syndrome, which is different than gluten intolerance or celiacs. OAS can cause topical and oral reactions when people come into contact with foods related to certain pollens, wheat included.

      I do suggest though that those with celiacs and NCGI be cautious since I haven't come across recent studies that prove HWP is totally gluten free. If you have some references that prove HWP is completely GF and safe I'd love to see them so I can be more specific in the article.

      That said, I've also come across studies that show even those without wheat sensitivities can become sensitized to HWP (i.e. this study: and this one:

      Quite frankly I'm not sure why the cosmetic industry feels the need to put so many modified chemicals in products in the first place. We can get along just fine without having so much stuff in our soaps, shampoos and cosmetics, and the less ingredients there are the less likely we are to react to something.

      As for the wheat in hydrolized wheat protein causing the allergic reactions in those with oral allergy syndrome, the studies I've referenced above utilize both prick tests and IgE tests which both indicate strong IgE responses specifically to hydrolyzed wheat proteins. In fact, since I wrote the article they've even given the allergy/disease a tite: "this disease is called dietary immediate hypersensitivity to hydrolyzed wheat proteins (IHHWP)" (

      As I said, if you have references to help clarify any of this I'd love to see them as it seems to be an ongoing field of study and I certainly do try to provide a balanced perspective.

  9. I know this is an old article but wanted to respond. Having never heard of OAS before finding your site, I am hopeful it might lead me in the direction of better health. Since preteen years I have developed rashes and sores from soaps, shampoos, topical medications, bandage adhesives, make-up, etc. Getting medical answers has been difficult. Last year I went gluten free (along with dairy/casein free, soy free, and shellfish free)it's been one of the best things to help me. Even thought my medical records have a lot of documentation of anaphylactic shock due to my shellfish allergy years ago (haven't eaten shellfish in over 20 yrs)recently my allergist did a blood test and says I am not allergic to shellfish. I asked does this mean it is like you hear children sometimes "outgrow" allergies? He then proceeded to tell me DO NOT EAT SHELLFISH! Obviously tests aren't accurate in every situation. And just because some company claims your reaction to wheat in beauty products is disproved in their lab doesn't mean some people aren't reacting due to sensitivities they have. OAS is starting to give me some possible answers. Thank you for sharing any info you find and any of your personal experiences. You never know who you might be helping.

    1. That's so much, Kat, for sharing your story, and your kind words! I'm so glad you are feeling better and discovering ways to better health. Please don't hesitate to ask if you have any questions about OAS :)

      I know for myself if I'd left it the doctors I'd be on asthma inhalers, acne meds, allergy meds, anti-depressants, and so on and it still wouldn't have fixed things. I'm not saying there aren't good doctors out there, there are some great ones. But sometimes you have to listen to your body and push to find answers. When there's a profit to be made by someone thrown in the mix then it can be even harder to get straight, unbiased answers!

  10. So I have oral allergy syndrome, tree nut allergy (but peanuts and almonds are ok) and many hay fever allergies, along with IBS. I try to eat gluten free and dairy free, no pop, limited sugar. I buy high quality probiotics, digestive enzymes, vitamins and supplements to try to keep my myriad of digestive issues under control. My question relates to vitamins. I was wondering if "raw" "whole food" vitamins that have these blends of fruits and vegetables are safe for those suffering from OAS. I find no matter what I eat or drink, I am always feeling off, bloated, icky. But I only get the symptoms of itchy throat OAS if I eat fresh cantaloupe, honeydew, greenish bananas (makes my roof of my mouth peel off!), kiwi (also makes roof of my mouth peel off), broccoli, radishes, carrots... When I take raw vitamins, I can't ever tell if I am helping or hurting my digestive issues they are there no matter wgat. Kind of a never-ending cycle. It seems nothing is safe to eat!

    1. Hi Vicki, have you had allergy testing done? Of course my first suggestion is to talk to a doctor familiar with your allergies to see if they can suggest a multi-vitamin that might be safe for you, and determine if you really are avoiding all potential allergens (even in your supplements, etc).

      My other thought is that if the vitamins really are "raw", I'd be hesitant to use them, particularly if they contain items you might be allergic to. Raw isn't necessarily better - I have an article on that here:
      The Health Benefits of Cooked vs Raw Foods

      I'd also be wary of raw probiotics, depending on what's in them. Cooked probiotics can still be beneficial (I have another article on that here: Does Heat Kill Probiotics and Their Health Benefits?

      If you are comfortable with cooked veggies, personally that's the route I'd go. At least you know for sure what you're getting that way! As for symptoms, OAS isn't just necessarily in the mouth (despite what some doctors might tell you). You can definitely get digestive problems, cramping, fatigue, bloating, etc. from OAS.

      I hope that helps a bit!


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