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If eating lots of wheat-based cereals gives you bad spots does that mean you have a gluten allergy and should take on a gluten-free diet to try and improve your skin?

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2015-07-16 18:14:50
2015-07-16 18:14:50

If your "bad spots" are itchy bumps that are slow to disappear and NOT hives, and they seem related to your wheat/gluten consumption, then you might have the skin rash that sometimes accompanies Celiac Disease. It is called Dermatitis Herpetiformis (DH). If the spots are hives, then you might have wheat allergy or be allergic to something else in the cereals.

Your question caught my eye because I have Celiac Disease and Dermatitis Herpetiformis (DH). My DH shows up as itchy spots on the outer (extensor) surfaces of my elbows, though other locations are also common. Celiac Disease is a genetically related, autoimmune gluten intolerance that affects the small intestines, sometimes without obvious symptoms. Dermatitis Herpetiformis is an itchy, spotty skin rash that 1 out of 10 people with Celiac Disease also get. Only people with gluten intolerance get DH. It can vary in intensity. For some people, it's just a few minor bumps. For others, it can cover large areas of the body. For some reason, the people who get the DH spots don't seem to get as bad of symptoms in the intestines. For me, for example, I never had any abdominal pain from eating gluten. This is typical for someone with DH.

It might be important to you to get tested for Celiac Disease and DH prior to trying a gluten-free diet, because if you get tested while you are not eating gluten, your tests can come out falsely negative. Both conditions are autoimmune and are permanent conditions.

Many doctors are not that familiar with Celiac Disease or DH, so it is important to do some homework yourself. But if you ask, your doc should be able to order tests for antigliadin antibodies (IgA and IgG). If either of these come back positive, there may be other tests they want to run, such as endomysial antibodies (EMA). Your doc might refer you to a GI doc.

Some people test negative to all of the tests and still find that a gluten-free diet helps them.

If you have DH, it may take a while after going gluten-free for the rash to disappear. For some people, it's gone in a couple of weeks. For others with bad cases, it can take longer. Iodine (like in seafood or salty chips) can make the rash temporarily worse, but iodine is not the root of the problem, gluten is.

There are many good support websites online that explain more.

Check out the National Institutes of Health website info about Celiac Disease and Dermatitis Herpetiformis for reliable information:

http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/celiac/

There is also a good forum about DH at:

http://www.glutenfreeforum.com/

Oh, and if you think it's wheat allergy (hives), then you need to see a board certified allergist and get a RAST test or skin-prick test to confirm, and possibly an EpiPen. An allergist will not necessarily be the right person to ask about Celiac Disease, however.

Good luck!

Someone with DH

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