Do you know that there are certain food allergies that your immune system can react to due to different types of food?
Food allergies occur in individuals when their immune system reacts to a certain protein or proteins as they are harmful pathogens.
These pathogens can be bacteria, parasites, or viruses.
According to studies, food allergies are very common.
In fact, about 5% of adults and 8% of children suffer from them and this percentage is rising.
Interestingly, it is possible for any food item to cause an allergy, most food allergies are due to just 8 foods.
Moreover, according to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, in the United States alone about 4% of adults and 5% of children suffer from food allergies.
It is important to note that most often food allergies develop in early childhood.
However, in some cases, children outgrow them.
Food allergies can also develop in adulthood, however, this is rare.
Let’s learn more about them in detail.
Symptoms of Food Allergies
Symptoms of food allergies can range from mild to severe and can affect each individual differently.
Not every individual will experience all the possible signs and symptoms.
Moreover, each reaction can be slightly different.
But the common signs and symptoms are as follows:
Tingling in the mouth, burning sensation in the lips and mouth, facial swelling, a skin rash, or hives.
It can also cause wheezing, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea, a runny nose, and streaming eyes.
Symptoms of Anaphylaxis
Anaphylaxis is a severe and systemic allergic reaction.
It typically occurs after exposure to a specific allergen, however, can take a few hours to develop.
The signs and symptoms come on quickly and worsen rapidly.
These may include:
A rapid fall in blood pressure, fear or a feeling of apprehension, an itchy or tickly throat, and nausea.
Moreover, it can also show symptoms like respiratory issues like wheezing or shortness of breath, sneezing, streaming nose and eye, a fast heartbeat, or tachycardia.
Rapid swelling of the throat, lips, face, and mouth, vomiting, loss of consciousness.
Causes of Food Allergies
The cause of food allergies is when your immune system treats a certain protein in a food as a harmful substance.
It perceives it as a harmful substance that may cause disease.
It thus responds by producing IgE antibodies that play a role in attacking this protein.
When you eat the same food again, the antibodies are ready, so your immune system attack again immediately.
It does it by releasing histamine and other chemical substances into your bloodstream.
These chemicals cause symptoms of food allergies.
Histamine causes your blood vessels to expand and your skin to become inflamed or swollen.
Moreover, it affects the nerves, thus, making your skin feel itchy.
Your nose may also produce excess mucus, resulting in itching, burning, and a streaming nose.
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Common Trigger of Food Allergies
The most common food allergies account for almost 90% of all food allergies
Most often people refer to them as the “big eight allergens”
These are eggs, fish, milk, nuts from trees, peanuts or groundnuts, shellfish, soybeans, and wheat.
According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, the most common food allergens in children are milk, eggs, and peanuts.
They also report that children usually outgrow allergies to milk, egg, soy, and wheat, and almost up to 25% of them may also outgrow an allergy to peanuts.
It is important to note that European countries have additional top allergies that include sesame, celery, lupin, (a legume), and mustard.
Let’s discuss these food allergies in detail.
One of the most common food allergies in babies and young children is cow’s milk.
This is especially when they are exposed to cow’s milk protein before they are 6 months old.
It is also one of the most common childhood allergies, affecting almost 2 to 3% of babies and toddlers.
However, about 90% of children tend to outgrow this allergy by the time they turn 3, thus, making it less common in adults.
A cow’s milk allergy can occur in both IgE and Non-IgE forms, however, IgE cow allergies are most common.
These are also more serious.
Children or adults with an IgE allergy show a reaction within 5 to 30 minutes of ingesting cow’s milk.
They experience symptoms like swelling, rashes, hives, vomiting, and in rare cases, anaphylaxis.
On the other hand, a non-IgE allergy has more gut-based symptoms like vomiting, constipation, or diarrhea as well as inflammation of the gut wall.
A non-IgE milk allergy can be difficult to diagnose.
This is because the symptoms can suggest an intolerance and there is no blood test for it as well.
If, however, your doctor diagnoses it, the only treatment is to avoid cow milk and foods that contain it.
Milk, milk powder, cheese, butter, margarine, yogurt, cream, or ice cream,
Moreover, a breastfeeding mother with an allergen will also have to remove cow’s mild and foods from their own diet.
However, if your child is not breastfeeding, a suitable alternative to cow’s milk is a milk-based formula that your health professional can recommend.
It is important to note that lactose intolerance is different from milk allergy.
Another common food allergy among children is an egg allergy.
However, it is important to note that about 68% of the children outgrow this allergy by the time they are 16.
Symptoms are digestive distress, skin reactions like hives or a rash, respiratory problems, or anaphylaxis which is rare.
An interesting fact about this allergy is that you might be allergic to egg white but not the yolks and vice versa.
This is because the proteins of egg whites and egg yolks are slightly different.
Het, most of the proteins that trigger an allergic reaction are present in egg whites, thus an egg white allergy is more common.
Just like other allergies, the treatment of this allergy is to avoid the egg.
However, you may not have to avoid all egg-related foods.
Heating eggs can change the shape of allergy-causing proteins.
This can stop your body from reacting to the egg proteins, which means they are less likely to cause a protein reaction.
A tree nut allergy is an allergy to some of the nuts and seeds that come from trees.
Moreover, it is a very common food allergy and affects about 1% of the US population, according to studies.
Some examples are Brazil nuts, almonds, cashews, macadamia nuts, pistachios, pine nuts, and walnuts.
If you have a tree nut allergy, then you will also be allergic to food products that are made with nuts.
These include nut butter and oils.
Thus, you will have to avoid all types of tree nuts, even if you are only allergic to one or two types of them.
This is because being allergic to one type of tree nut increases your risk of developing an allergy to other types as well.
Additionally, it is easy to avoid all nits, rather than just one or two types.
Moreover, these allergies can also be very severe and are responsible for almost 50% of anaphylaxis-related deaths.
Because of this reason, your doctor will advise you to carry an epi-pen all the time.
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Just like a tree nut allergy, peanut allergies are also very common and can cause severe and potential severe allergic reactions.
However, these two conditions are often considered distinct as peanuts are legumes.
Moreover, if you are allergic to tree nuts, then you will also be allergic to peanuts.
The reasons for developing peanut allergies are unknown
However, many doctors are of the view that if you have a family history of peanut allergies, then you are at risk as well.
Because of this reason, it was thought that introducing peanuts through a breastfeeding mother’s diet may trigger an allergy.
However, several studies indicate that introducing peanuts early may be protective.
This allergy affects almost 4 to 8% of children and 1 to 2% of adults.
A shellfish allergy is due to the fact that your body attacks proteins from the crustacean and mollusk families of fish.
Examples of shellfish are:
Shrimp, prawns, crayfish, lobster, squid, and scallops.
The most common trigger of this allergy is a protein, tropomyosin.
Other proteins may also play an important role in triggering an immune response.
These proteins are arginine kinase and myosin light chain.
It is important to note that symptom of shellfish allergy cones quickly and are also similar to IgE food allergies.
However, it can sometimes be hard to distinguish from an adverse reaction to a contaminant of seafood.
This may include bacteria, viruses, or parasites.
Moreover, a shellfish allergy does not resolve over time, thus you would have to exclude all shellfish from your diet to avoid having an allergic reaction.
This food allergy is due to one of the proteins present in wheat.
It tends to affect children the most.
Although, most children with this allergy often outgrow them as they reach 10 years of age.
Like other food allergies, this allergy can result in digestive distress, hives, vomiting, rashes, swelling, and in severe cases, anaphylaxis.
Often wheat allergy is confused with celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity.
However, a true wheat allergy causes an immune response to one of the hundreds of proteins found in wheat.
This reaction can be severe and even fatal in some cases.
However, celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity are not life-threatening.
They are due to an abnormal immune reaction to one specific protein, i.e. gluten.
Thus, if you have it, you will need to avoid wheat or other grains that contain the protein gluten.
This allergy affects about 0.4% of children and is most common in infants and children under the age of 3.
The trigger of this allergy is the protein in soybeans or soybean-containing products.
However, around 70% of children who are allergic to soy outgrow the allergy.
The symptoms of this allergy can range from an itchy, tingly mouth and runny nose to a rash and asthma or breathing difficulties.
However, in rare cases, it can also cause anaphylaxis.
Interestingly, infants who are allergic to cow milk are also allergic to soy as well.
Common food triggers are soybeans and soy products like soy milk and soy sauce.
Fish allergies are common, thus affect about 2% of adults.
Unlike other allergies, it is not common for a fish allergy to surface late in life.
Thus, about 40% of people developing the allergy are adults.
Unlike shellfish allergy, this can cause a serious and potential allergic reaction.
The main symptoms are vomiting and diarrhea, however, in rare cases, anaphylaxis can also occur.
Thus, you will have to carry an epi-pen all the time in case you expediently eat fish.
It is important to note that since shellfish and fish fins do not carry the same proteins, individuals who are allergic to shellfish may not be allergic to fish.
Diagnosing Food Allergies
In order to diagnose food allergies, your doctor will ask about the symptoms when you eat certain food items.
They will want to know about:
The symptoms that occur, how long it takes for the reaction to begin, foods that cause it, whether the food was cooked or not, and when you ate it.
Your doctor will also ask about existing allergies like seasonal allergies, or asthma, and whether you have a person in your family with allergies.
Blood tests help to find allergies as in response to them your immune system makes immunoglobulin E IgE in your bloodstream.
Tests for Food Allergies
The following tests can help your doctor to diagnose a food allergy:
Skin Prick Test: During this test, your doctor will place diluted food on your arm and lightly pierce it.
Any reaction like swelling, or redness can indicate an allergy.
Blood Tests: This test looks for the presence of antibodies that are specific to certain food proteins.
Food Diary: If you write down everything you eat and describe the symptoms, it can help diagnose the allergy.
Oral Food Challenges: This one is the most scientific method to diagnose food allergies accurately.
During this, your physician will give the suspected food allergen in increasing amounts, monitoring the symptoms closely.
This method removes the chances of psychological reactions.
Treatment for Food Allergies
The conventional way to manage food allergies is to avoid food that causes the reaction.
You can also treat the symptom of the reaction when they occur.
Oral immunotherapy is relatively a new and investigative way to manage it.
It involves ingesting increasing amounts of an allergen to increase the threshold that triggers a reaction.
However, it is not available for all foods.
However, the FDA, the Food and Drug Administration approved a treatment for peanut allergy, Palforiza.
Elimination can involve not eating certain food but also never inhaling it, touching it, or eating food with traces of it inside.
When on an elimination diet, you may need to look for other sources of certain nutrients.
For instance, milk is a common source of calcium and protein, thus, when you remove it, make sure to eat other foods rich in calcium.
Moreover, read the food and drinks label carefully.
Some soaps, pet foods, glues, and adhesives may also have traces of food allergens.
Food intolerance is relatively common in children and infants and their rates are increasing. Different amount of food, whether in large or small amounts can cause oral allergy syndrome.
The most common ones are eggs, milk, and peanuts, and the symptoms can range from mild to severe.
There is no traditional cure for food allergies, however, oral immunotherapy can help and if you can treat the symptoms when they arrive, you can do sp, Thus avoiding the products that contain the allergens allows you to prevent reactions from occurring.