The connection between gluten and nasal congestion may not be immediately apparent, but there certainly is a connection, especially for individuals who happen to be gluten intolerant. Gluten is a protein which is commonly found in grains and various foods which may contain those grains. Most people think of nasal congestion as having excess mucus in the sinuses, but the real culprit of nasal congestion is an inflammation of the delicate nasal tissue.
Nasal passages are comprised of soft tissues and mucous membranes which act to filter debris and particulates from oxygen before its entry into the lungs. Someone who is allergic to gluten may quickly experience inflammation of the nasal tissue after eating foods which contain gluten, which then opens up the door to all the symptoms of nasal congestion.
Gluten and Nasal Congestion
Nasal congestion is one of the most common of all food allergy symptoms. People suffering from nasal congestion experience discomfort in the facial area around the cheekbones, in their teeth, and sometimes around the forehead. This kind of stuffiness can exert significant pressure throughout most of the head, and make the sufferer feel tension similar to a headache.
It can also lead to postnasal drip, wherein mucus oozes or drips into the throat, causing someone to feel a kind of gag reflex, with the need to cough up the mucus. The increased presence of mucus can create nasal congestion, and inflammation of the sinus tissue, which can cause nasal passage obstructions. When this happens, it can be difficult for the victim to breathe through the nose.
Your Body’s Reaction to Gluten
For some people, the presence of gluten in the body triggers an overreaction on the part of the immune system, one result of which is the excess production of histamine in the sinus cavity. When the immune system mistakenly identifies a gluten protein as an invader, it has the same kind of reaction it would have to an intrusive virus or bacteria – it creates antibodies to attack the invading protein.
The sudden increase of white blood cells generates a greater than normal quantity of histamine, which in turn leads to nasal irritation and potentially severe inflammation. This kind of reaction however, is not the norm, and generally only occurs in people who are allergic to gluten.
Are You Allergic to Gluten?
If you think you might be intolerant to gluten, the best way to find out for sure is to consult your family doctor. A blood test can identify the specific gene that causes an allergic reaction to gluten, and steps can then be taken to manage your intolerance.
Someone who is experiencing some or all of the symptoms of gluten intolerance, e.g., headaches, nasal congestion, fatigue, bloating, diarrhea, etc. can try eliminating all foods containing gluten for a full month. Toward the end of that period, you can take stock of how you feel, and whether the symptoms you were recently experiencing have been alleviated, or have disappeared entirely. If your symptoms have cleared up by eliminating gluten from your diet, the chances are that you do have an allergy to foods containing gluten.
Preventing Nasal Congestion
Patients can quickly deal with the adverse side effects from gluten and nasal congestion – avoid all foods containing the gluten protein. As with many things though, that’s a little easier said than done. Unfortunately, most food allergies persist throughout the victim’s lifetime, and almost none of them have a cure. That means it becomes incumbent upon the victim to be educated about those foods, so they can exclude these foods from their diet. Grains often contain gluten, including oats, barley, wheat, and rye, which means foods containing any of these grains should be avoided.
However, those are not the only sources of gluten, so you should also pay careful attention to cookies, pasta, crackers, salad dressing – even deli meats. In short, almost anything that could contain the grains identified above are contenders for having gluten as an ingredient. To be sure about what you’re purchasing and about what you’re eating, the safest bet is to look for foods identified as gluten-free.
Treating Nasal Congestion
Before adopting any specific treatment for gluten and nasal congestion, you should consult your physician. Your doctor may recommend any one of some treatment approaches, including the use of nasal saline sprays, decongestants which can be purchased over the counter, or antihistamines. Whatever has been recommended for your particular case should be kept on hand, so that in the event a gluten-triggered attack of nasal congestion comes on, symptom relief is nearby.