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Saturday, October 13, 2012

Celiac Disease, Wheat Allergies, Oral Allergy Syndrome and Sprouted Grains

Sprouted Lentils for Sprouted Lentil Bread
Are Sprouted Grains Safer for those with Wheat Allergies, Celiac Disease and Oral Allergy Syndrome?
Those of you with celiacs, wheat and/or gluten allergies, and in particular wheat allergies related to Oral Allergy Syndrome (OAS), may have been wondering if sprouted grains are safer for you than regular wheat bread and less likely to cause an allergic reaction.

I know I've been wondering, but have been hesitant to try.  After all, no one likes anaphylactic shock and cramps that make your belly feel like you’re about to give birth to that nasty little double headed thing from ALIEN.  And no, Sigourney Weaver won’t be there to save you.   

A newly published study suggests that allergic folks will probably want to eat sprouted grains with caution. 

First things first: Sprouted Grains, Wheat Allergies and Celiacs

So there’s been a lot of stuff in the foodie world in the last couple of years about sprouted and/or soaked grains being better for you than regular old grain, and how some people with mild gluten sensitivity have found that sprouted wheat is more digestible and causes less reaction.

So what does this mean for the myriad of folks who are gluten sensitive/intolerant, celiac, or wheat allergic? 

Celiacs (i.e. those who have tested positive for celiac disease) should probably never eat gluten containing foods in any form, sprouted, soaked or not.  These items still contain gluten, and while they might be more easily digested, they can still cause the same damage to your innards and should be avoided!  

Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitive folks (those who have tested negative for celiac disease but still experience similar symptoms to celiacs) may find that sprouted grains are more digestible than regular grains.  Studies suggest those who are merely gluten sensitive do not have the same long-term gut damage as celiacs, and some may be able to get away with small amounts of gluten without reaction (my aunt is sensitive but can eat wheat crackers and small slices of bread with no problems, lucky lady!).  Those who can digest gluten periodically *might* be able to get away with eating sprouted grains. 

Wheat allergies, OAS and sprouted grains are a bit of a complicated issue...

Oral Allergy Syndrome and Wheat Allergies

In general, those with wheat allergies can experience a variety of allergic reactions after wheat exposure, usually within 5 - 30 minutes.  Reactions include tingling lips, tongue and throat, abdominal cramping and upset, malaise, hives, anaphylactic shock and more.  Other grains related to wheat to watch out for include barley and rye, as well as buckwheat.  

(Note that although Buckwheat is generally safe for people with gluten allergies as it does not contain gluten, it is related to birch pollen, so it may not safe for some OAS folks. For more on this, check out the list of foods that are related to birch on the Oral Allergy Syndrome chart.)
Amongst Oral Allergy Syndrome’s claims to fame, is the allergic reaction many people experience to wheat.  Good ol’ OAS, that oh so fun food allergy related to hay fever that makes you allergic to nearly everything edible under the sun!  

In fact, it is likely that most wheat allergies are a result of OAS, as numerous scientific studies have determined OAS as the leading cause of food allergies in several industrialized countries. [i] 

A recent case study indicates that sprouted grain bread can cause the same reactions as regular wheat and grains related to OAS.  

The study involved a woman who visited her pharmacist after she reacted to a variety of fruits and veggies.  The pharmacist suggested she had Oral Allergy Syndrome, and that she try cutting out fruits and vegetables.  Her symptoms improved afterwards, but when she began eating sprouted grain bread, her lips and tongue swelled and tingled.  The pharmacist recommended she implement an elimination diet to determine her allergies, and cut out the bread.  She did, and was successful in getting rid of her symptoms.[ii]

 So what can we  take from this?  

1)   Celiacs should not eat sprouted grain bread made from gluten containing grains.

2) Those with non-celiac gluten sensitivity should eat sprouted grains with caution.

3) Those with wheat allergies and Oral Allergy Syndrome should eat sprouted bread with caution.  (Personally, I avoid it, but I'm uber-sensitive.  I stick to my sprouted green lentil bread or my sprouted red lentil bread! Although lentils are on the OAS list, I find that the sprouting and cooking process denatures the allergen protein, making them more digestible and less reactive, but that's just me.)

4)  Check your sprouted grain bread ingredients. The exact ingredients of the bread the woman in the study ate are unclear, but I think it's important if you have wheat allergies to check for wheat in the ingredients.  If you have Oral Allergy Syndrome, check for wheat, buckwheat, rye and barley.

5) Eat with Caution. If you're allergic to any of the ingredients on the list, think twice about playing with fire! 

6) If you haven't already, talk to your doctor or pharmacist about trying an elimination diet to determine what you can and can't eat.  It's always a good idea to do it under a medical professional's supervision as in rare cases those with OAS and wheat allergies can experience anaphylactic shock after consuming foods they're allergic to. 

Do you eat sprouted bread? If so, what's your experience with it?

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

Allergic to Lettuce?!
The Oral Allergy Syndrome Page

This post was shared on the following great sites: Monday Mania, Gluten Free Monday, Scratch Cooking Tuesday,Gluten Free Wednesdays, Allergy Free Wednesday, Keep it Real Thursdays, Fresh Bites Friday, Freaky Friday, Fight Back Friday

[i].  For a shortlist of studies on the prevalence of OAS, see the following articles. 
For Italy, see R. Asero et al. “EpidemAAITO: Features of food allergy in Italian adults attending allergy clinics: a multi-centre study,” Clinical & Experimental Allergy, Volume 39, Issue 4, pages 547–555, April 2009.

For the UK see Skypala IJ, et al.  “Development and validation of a structured questionnaire for the diagnosis of oral allergy syndrome in subjects with seasonal allergic rhinitis during the UK birch pollen season,” Clinical and Experimental Allergy: Journal of the British Society for Allergy and Clinical Immunology.  July 2011, 41 (7). 

For Berlin, Germany  see C. C. Roehr, G. Edenharterw, S. Reimannz, I. Ehlersz, M. Wormz, T. Zuberbierz and B. Niggemann, “Food allergy and non-allergic food hypersensitivity in children and adolescents,” in Clinical & Experimental Allergy, (Blackwell Publishing Inc., October 1, 2004), page 1538

[ii] Ashley W. Ellis, "Oral Allergy Syndrome Precipitation and Sprouted-Grain Bread: A Case Report,"Journal of Asthma & Allergy Educators, September 28, 2012. 



  1. I tend to agree with you. I have been backing away from sprouted/soaked grains. I find that souring reduces far more of the gluten and the antinutrients than the other two options. And I just feel better after eating it. ;)

  2. Thanks for sharing, Jen :) I don't have much experience with GF sourdough, but I definitely want to start experimenting.

  3. I was diagnosed with a wheat allergy, but my wheat allergy manifested itself in IBS rather than OAS. I also suffer from OAS with things like fruits and vegetables and I was told I was "allergic" to things like cantaloupe, carrots, and a few other fruits and vegetables.

    I tested negative for Celiac

    I have eliminated wheat for a year now, and was basically on a gluten-free diet as a result. The IBS symptoms cleared up but I still had a lot of abdominal pain, just no diarrhea. In June (six months ago), I went completely grain-free and maintained that without any cheats for 4 months. I lost a few pounds and felt better than I had in years. However when the weather turned colder, I had a harder time making myself eat fruits and vegetables. I just can't make myself drink a cold smoothie or salad in November... I was so hungry and feeling lightheaded/weak. So my doctor told me that sprouted grain breads would probably be okay.

    I now eat Ezekial 4:9 bread a few times a week...mostly just one slice toasted with butter. I've seen no adverse affects (no diarrhea or OAS symptoms) and even lost another pound or two. I'm feeling more full.

    So I think it's working for me. I plan on staying grain-free (other than the sprouted grains) indefinitely for optimum gut healing and better overall health. And hopefully once spring and summer comes, I won't desire the grains as much at all.

    1. Aprille, thanks so much for sharing! That's really great that you've been ok with the sprouted grains. I know that some people have had good luck with gluten and wheat after going off it for a period of time to heal, then adding small amounts back in. As far as I know it doesn't seem to work for everyone, but I'm glad it's worked for you!

      I know all about the feeling hungry all the time ;) I'm working on some warm winter smoothies right now to keep my belly full!

  4. As soon as I stopped eating sprouted-grain bread, the cracks at the corners of my mouth and the rawness other places on my lips disappeared. Originally, the doctor told me that the perliche at the corners of my mouth was due to "sagging flesh around my mouth," a problem I do not have. I felt terribly discouraged. I was slathering on vaseline all day and night for about 3 years without any let up in my problem except now and then. Finally, the vaseline did not work at all, and I decided to try eliminating the sprouted-wheat bread I was eating as I had to stop eating the Ezekiel brand a few years before due to difficulty digesting it. I ate corn tortillas for a while and the "cracks" around my lips disappeared. I decided to try a bread made with wheat flour. Now I eat a whole-wheat flour brand called Tuscan Pane from TJ's without any problems in my digestive tract or around my lips. What a relief! Cracks in the corners of my mouth were painful, but now they are gone. I also do not have to keep my lips constantly moisturized with petroleum jelly, nor do I have to wash my lips after eating to eliminate bacteria that cause perliche.

    1. That's very interesting. Any ideas about what specifically may have made the difference? Perleche can also be caused by a vitamin deficiency, so is it possible the bread you're eating now has more Vitamin B or something else than the sprouted bread, or do you think that something in the sprouted grain itself caused the perleche?

    2. I take vitamin supplements which include various B vitamins. I'm not talking about a multiple vitamin but separate vitamins. I know I do not have a B vitamin deficiency. The doctor even checked for me with a blood test. I think that the sprouted grains are maybe too raw. I also cannot eat seeds such as sesame, etc. They cause digestive difficulties.

    3. Thanks for sharing your experience! I hope it can be informative to someone else who might be suffering as well :)

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  8. I am not gluten or wheat sensitive, but I am allergic to sprouted wheat bread, so it's real. Be careful if you have oral food sensitivities when thinking about trying sprouted bread! Apparently the enzymes in the sprouts are not killed through drying and then baking temps. I have allergies to alfalfa sprouts, stone fruits, hazelnuts and honey, among a few other foods. If honey is baked at high enough temps in the oven like with baklava, it must kill the enzymes and the honey isn't a problem. But raw, no go.


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