How can one avoid food allergy?
Knowledge of oneself is foremost requirement when one is looking on how to avoid food allergy. Dairy and wheat are just a few of the foods that can cause reactions and allergies in adults and children.
Food allergies and reactions can be confusing. Often, it’s not easy to figure out which foods contain ingredients that may trigger a reaction. Further, many people who think they are allergic to a food may actually be confusing a food reaction for an allergy and may not need to eliminate certain foods.
What is a food allergy?
A food allergy is a predictable reaction to a specific food or food group. An allergy is caused by an immune reaction to the protein in a food, which brings about a sudden release of chemicals that cause the symptoms.
Symptoms typically appear within a few minutes to two hours of consuming the food. They can range from mild like a rash, itching, or swelling to life threatening, including breathing difficulties and swelling of the throat or tongue.
Many children and adults will start with a single allergy, and then develop others. Some even “lose” their allergy over time. If you are allergic to milk protein, you may also be allergic to other kinds of milk protein, like goats’ milk and soy beverages.
What are the most common food allergies?
Eight foods account for 90% of all food allergy reactions: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, shellfish, and fish.
In older children and adults, fish, peanuts, shellfish, and tree nuts are the most common allergies. These allergies are also considered the most serious, because they can be life-threatening.
The best way to avoid allergenic foods is by taking precaution.
It is essential that you become an avid label reader. Start at the list of ingredients, which is where you will find the clues to what is contained within the product.
Become familiar with all the food terms for your specific allergy. For example, if you are allergic to milk protein, you need to avoid all foods made from milk, including cheese, yogurt and cream. Avoid all foods that contain whey, casein, caseinate, nonfat milk solids, lactoglobulin, cow’s milk protein, nougat, curds, sodium caseinate, or lactalbumin. Look carefully at butter, margarine, ice cream, cakes, puddings, sorbet, breads, soups, vegetables with sauces, and more.
People with allergies would benefit from a diet that is less processed and closer to natural foods, because there are fewer additives in these foods that could cause problems.
Can allergies be treated?
At this time, there are no medications that cure food allergies. The most important treatment is the elimination of the allergy-causing food. Careful reading of ingredient labels is essential to avoiding all foods with the allergy-causing ingredient. For example, milk may be listed by its components casein or whey, and eggs can be labeled as albumin. If you have an allergy to a certain food, you must become familiar with all related ingredients that could potentially cause a reaction. A good rule of thumb is, when in doubt, don’t eat it.
If you suspect that you have an allergy, what should you do?
For a few weeks, keep diary out of everything you eat and take note of the times symptoms appear. Keeping a symptom diary will help you and your physician identify food triggers or patterns. Take into consideration any emotional factors in your life, such as stress or any activities you are engaged in.
Can one become allergic to a food once tolerated?
It is possible, but perhaps more commonly, you may have been allergic but because of a limited exposure to the food you may have not recognized the food reaction symptoms. For example you may not have linked a skin rash to your diet, but it could be a symptom of an allergy. Or, if you typically don’t eat much shellfish, you might not know you have an allergy until you eat a large portion.
To reduce concerns about missing nutrients patients should work with a registered dietitian to ensure the missing nutrients from the eliminated food is supplied by other foods or dietary supplements. This is especially important when there are multiple allergies or when dairy is limited or eliminated, because it is the best source of calcium in the diet.
Feel free to share personal experiences regarding avoidance and management of food allergies.