Food allergy is any reaction by the immune system that occurs after eating a specific food. Even little amount of an allergen can trigger signs and symptoms like digestive problems, rashes, and life-threatening reactions.
Often, we have the power to choose what we love to eat and what we don’t. But what happens when you immediately experience unpleasant symptoms like vomiting or sores on the mouth every time you eat a certain food? When it comes to allergies, you have no option but to let go of an allergy-causing food. Otherwise, you may experience harmful results. Some allergies come about when you’re a child, and in such cases, it’s easy to get treatment and avoid complications. However, some reactions may appear in adulthood, and in most situations, individuals find out later when their body immune system has been damaged already. So, what are the common food allergies you should be careful with?
Food allergy and food intolerance are different
Sometimes food intolerance is characterized by the same signs and symptoms like food allergy. Experts claim most individuals who think they have food allergies actually have food intolerance. If it’s food allergy, your immune system will overreact by generating antibodies known as immunoglobulin E(IgE). These antibodies then bind with the food allergen to cause an allergic reaction which will be felt in the form of symptoms like itchiness. Regarding food intolerance, IgE antibodies are not involved, but other immune system elements are. Although food intolerance reactions may be the same as that of food allergies, they take longer to appear. An allergy is only a protein response. Food intolerance has a variety of triggers, including chemicals, proteins, or carbohydrates. A person can eat tiny amounts of that food without experiencing any reactions when it comes to food intolerance. With food allergies, even a tiny amount will trigger the immune system and cause an allergic reaction. The following food intolerances are often mistaken for food allergies;
Celiac disease-individuals with celiac disease are intolerant to gluten. After eating it, they may have stomach pain, bloating, or diarrhea.
Food additive sensitivity-individuals with this condition are affected by additives like sulfites which manufacturers use to preserve canned food and dried fruits.
Psychological factors-some Some individuals can feel sick by just thinking about certain food. These people usually don’t have a particular reason for reacting to a particular food.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)-often, this long-term issue causes stomach pains, diarrhea, and constipation. Individuals with IBS are usually intolerant to fermentable carbohydrates.
Inadequate enzymes-individuals with such a condition lack enough enzymes needed for proper digestion. For example, people with lactose intolerance often lack enzyme lactase.
How do you identify an allergy?
Determining a food allergy can be difficult. It’s easy for individuals or even doctors to make a wrong diagnosis. For proper diagnosis, the following details are needed;
- Symptoms that occur
- The number of hours it took before reactions began
- Foods that caused the reaction
- Whether the food is cooked
- Where the person eats it
Symptoms of food allergy
Your body’s response to allergens can be mild or severe depending on an individual. It’s not expected everyone will experience all these symptoms. However, the common signs and symptoms include;
- Running nose
- Hives-skin rash
- Facial swelling
- Burning sensation in the mouth and lips
- Tingling in the mouth
- Nausea or vomiting
What are the affected areas when you have a food allergy?
Food allergy leads to responses in different parts of the body, and the most commonly affected areas include;
Skin-it’s the largest and most commonly affected area. You’ll experience itchy red bumps, facial redness, swelling, itchiness, or swelling of the tongue, lips, or mouth.
Respiratory system-coughing, running or stuffy nose, wheezing, or shortness of breath
Cardiovascular system-fainting or lightheadedness
Gastrointestinal tract-nausea, diarrhea, belly pain, or vomiting
What are the common food allergies?
Proteins are the major triggers of food allergies. Almost any type of food can trigger an allergy response. However, experts rank the following foods as allergens that cause 90% of food allergy reactions;
- Tree nuts like almonds, pine nuts, walnuts, and brazil nuts
Less common food allergens include;
- Spices like mustard, coriander, and garlic
- Seeds like sunflower, poppy, and sesame
- Beef, pork, mutton, and chicken
Are there any hidden triggers of food allergies?
The only way to control food allergies is to avoid that particular food. Doing so isn’t as easy as one may think. An allergen may be hidden as a constituent in something else without you knowing. These hidden triggers include;
- A hot dog might have milk protein, and you may not know
- Salad dressing may contain soybean oil which you’re allergic to
- A baked good like cake or cookies can be made with nuts or eggs
- Rice may contain a spice you’re allergic to
What are the risk factors of food allergies?
Food allergies can attack anyone at any age. Although food allergies are more common to children and can outgrow as they become older, some reactions may persist till adulthood. Food allergy risk factors are;
Age-toddlers and infants are the ones commonly affected by food allergies. However, as they become bigger, their digestive system starts to mature, and their body has lower chances of absorbing components that cause allergies.
Family history-you have higher chances of food allergies if eczema, asthma, or hives, and other allergy reactions are common in your family.
Other allergies-you may be at a greater risk of being allergic to something if you’re already allergic to one food. Also, if you are experiencing one type of allergic reaction like hay fever, you’re likely to have other kinds of food allergies.
Asthma-food allergy and asthma often occur together. When that happens, the symptoms will be more severe.
Food allergies affect most individuals. However, it should not be confused with food intolerance. Both have almost similar body responses, but they’re not the same thing. The main food allergies include; cow’s milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts like cashew, wheat, shellfish, fish, and soy. The safest way to control food allergies is by avoiding them. Other tips include; be aware of what you’re drinking and eating by reading labels carefully. Choose keenly what you order at the restaurants and consult your doctor about emergency treatment. So, what are you allergic to?