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Dealing with food allergies

This month we take a look at food allergies and see how we can lessen or prevent its severity. There are approximately 11 million Americans who suffer from serious food allergies and there is little they can do about it. Let's explore food allergies and learn what we can do about it.


  1. What is a food allergy?
  2. What foods have a high allergic effect?
  3. What do I do with my food allergy?
  4. What are the other types of allergies?
  5. Drug allergies


  1. What is a food allergy?

    Whenever your immune system regards any substance that enters the body as harmful, it reacts hyper-sensitively. When this occurs, with the substance being food, you have food allergies. Whenever your immune system suspects certain foods to be foreign, it releases antibodies to fight those particular substances.

    When you eat the same food next time, the immune system releases massive amounts of chemicals in order to protect the body. When these chemicals find no harmful substance they trigger allergic symptoms that can affect the respiratory system, the skin, the cardiovascular system or your gastrointestinal tract.

  2. What foods have a high allergic effect?

    We all have different foods or other substances that we are allergic to. Foods that trigger an allergic reaction to one person might not trigger allergies when eaten by someone else. There are specific foods that are responsible for causing about 90% of food allergy cases in the U.S and the world at large, and they are:

    • Milk
    • Soy
    • Nuts (peanuts and tree nuts)
    • Eggs
    • Wheat
    • Seafood allergies (fish and shellfish)

    If you or your family member suffers from any symptoms of the abovementioned allergies or other food allergies, try to see an allergist or a dietician.

    •  Milk - when you experience allergy symptoms when you drink or eat foods that contain milk, you might be allergic to it. Fortunately milk can be cut out of your diet and substituted with water or orange juice. If you're allergic to milk you must cut out all dairy products from your diet.

    With milk allergy, it is the proteins that you are allergic to, including whey and casein. Some people argue that goat milk is good if you're allergic to cow milk. This is a myth- goat milk carries as much similar proteins as cow milk and allergic reactions triggered by cow milk may also be triggered by goat milk.

    •  Soy - Today soybeans have become prominent ingredient of most processed foods and might be difficult to avoid. Soy is not necessarily a diet on its own but an ingredient of most foods. The following foods that contain soy are:

    • Sauces
    • Cereals
    • Crackers
    • Canned tuna
    • Baked products
    • Soups
    • Infant formula
    • Rarely found in peanut butter
    • Peanuts or tree nuts - If you think you're allergic to peanuts or tree nuts you must see your doctor (preferably an allergist or a dietician) for skin test and confirmation. Just a minimal amount of nuts extracts in your diet may also be life-threatening.

      If you continue eating peanuts or foods containing peanuts your symptoms may become fatal or even result in anaphylactic shock reaction. This reaction is life-threatening and is mostly characterized by:
      • Loss of consciousness
      • Dizziness
      • Choking
      • Drooling
      • Vomiting
      • Nausea
      • Diarrhea

      Peanuts are sometimes referred to as hydrolyzed vegetable protein or groundnuts. When you check the ingredients for peanuts also look for hydrolyzed vegetable protein or groundnuts.

    Look for tree nuts in several snacks and other foods. Tree nuts are mostly used in the following foods:

    • Barbecue sauces
    • Cereals
    • Crackers
    • Ice cream
    • Eggs - Although most children outgrow egg allergy by the time they're five years old, egg allergy remains the most common food allergy in infants and young children. Eggs and any foods that contain eggs must be avoided at all cost to reduce the severity of food allergies.

      Eggs contain protein and most of it is highly allergenic. Four major allergenic proteins found in the egg white include:
      • Ovalbumin (makes up 50% of the allergens found in egg white)
      • Ovomucoid
      • Ovtransferrin
      • Lysozyme

    There are also some people that are allergic to the yolk (the yellow part of the egg). Allergenic proteins found in the yolk include:

    • Phosvitin
    • Apovitellenins 1
    • Apovitellenins IV
    • Wheat

      When any wheat protein is regarded by your body as foreign or harmful, the immunoglobulin antibodies E are released by the body as a form of defense. There are four major proteins in wheat: albumin, globulin, gliadin and glutenin. These proteins vary in proportion according to the type of wheat. Scientists cannot understand why the body regards certain wheat protein as harmful or foreign.

      Wheat allergy can occur to anyone and it is not hereditary. There are no specific figures for the prevalence of wheat allergy but it is relatively uncommon. Allergic reactions to wheat may be caused by ingestion of wheat-containing foods or by inhalation of flour containing wheat.

      Allergic reactions to wheat usually show up within minutes or a few hours after eating or inhaling wheat. Usually wheat-mediated symptoms involve the skin, the respiratory tract, and the gastrointestinal tract:
      • Skin symptoms (eczema, hives, or swelling)
      • Respiratory symptoms (asthma, allergic rhinitis, hayfever etc.)
      • Gastrointestinal tract (nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, cramps etc.)

    If you experience any of these symptoms, see a dietician or allergist for diagnosis. The best method of treating wheat allergies is to avoid all foods that contain wheat. Most cereals may contain some wheat protein, so you must really talk to a dietician or an allergist.

    • Seafood allergies

      Although most prevalent in adults, seafood allergies may also affect your child. In fact, fish allergies are more prevalent in children while shellfish allergies are more prevalent in adults. Seafood allergies are very common in the U.S. with about 1 in 50 people allergic to shellfish, and 1 in 250 affected by fish.

      Fish allergies are more prevalent in Spain and Scandinavian countries. Most allergenic fish types include:
      • Tuna
      • Cod
      • Bass
      • Halibut
      • Salmon
      • Swordfish
      • Trout
      • Herring
      • Sardis

      Most allergenic shellfish types include:

      • Shrimp (more common in the Southern U.S)
      • Crab and lobster
      • Squid
      • Scallop
      • Clams
      • Mussels
      • Snails

3. What do I do with my food allergies?

There's currently no practical way of eliminating or curing food allergies, but avoidance has proven to be the best alternative known for lessening the severity of food allergies.

First visit your physician (preferably an allergist or a dietician) for proper diagnosis and determination of your symptoms. Your doctor will help you determine what food you are allergic to.

Read all the ingredients of any food item you purchase and avoid all items containing allergenic ingredients.

Do not take any medication for food allergies without your doctor's consent. Always discuss medication and dosage with a qualified medical practitioner or a pharmacist.

For emergency purposes, be sure to wear a medic alert bracelet that describes your allergies and carry an adrenaline kit in case of anaphylactic shock.

4. What are other types of allergies?

Inhalant allergies

Inhalant allergies refer to an allergic reaction triggered by foreign substances that enter the body through the respiratory system. There are numerous airborne substances that waft through the air and cause sicknesses if inhaled. If one has respiratory allergies, certain symptoms are evident:

  • Sneezing
  • Wheezing
  • A runny nose
  • Breathlessness
  • A sinus infection

Skin allergies

Skin allergy is characterized by various forms of skin irritations. Some people' skin swell or itch, or both. Other people develop a rash or blisters. You might have skin allergies if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Dermatitis
  • Swelling
  • Dark circles under or around your eyes
  • Eczema
  • Itchiness
  • Redness
  • Sudden change in your complexion

5. Drug allergies

Almost any drug may cause an unfortunate reaction. Drug allergies may range from mild symptoms such as swelling, sweating and vomiting, to serious and deadly symptoms such as breathlessness and death.

When a drug or medication is used for the first time and the immune system is sensitized, the second time you use the same medication your body releases antihistamines to protect the body against that drug. This reaction may trigger allergic symptoms such as rash, swelling in the tongue, eyes, lips or face, hives, itching and wheezing etc.


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