Food Allergies

Paying attention to the way individuals react to various foods is essential in determining what foods may specifically affect a person adversely. Food allergies are one of the many ways in which different body make-ups affect nutritional concerns. Although an estimated twelve million Americans have food allergies, there are likely many more people who say they have food allergies than actually do. This is because food sensitization is different from a medically determined food allergy. When someone has a food allergy, the immune system mistakenly attacks a certain kind of food (usually the protein component of a food), such as peanuts, as if it were a threat and IgE antibodies are produced. Doctors sometimes test for food allergies by using skin-prick tests or blood tests to look for the presence of IgE antibodies. However, these types of tests are not always reliable as they can sometimes yield a false positive result. By far, the most valuable tests for determining a food allergy is the Double Blind Placebo Controlled Food Challenge (DBPCFC), which involves administering the food orally and then denoting the signs and symptoms of the allergic response.

Food allergy symptoms usually develop within a few minutes to two hours after a person has eaten a food to which they are allergic. These symptoms can range from
the annoying to the potentially fatal, and include:

• A tingling mouth
• Swelling tongue and/or throat
• Difficulty breathing
• Hives
• Stomach cramps
• Diarrhea
• Vomiting
• Drop in blood pressure
• Loss of consciousness
• Death

There are no clear treatments for food allergies. Epinephrine is sometimes used to control severe reactions, and individuals with known and dangerous allergies may get prescriptions for self-injectable devices. The only certain way to avoid allergic reactions to food is to avoid the foods that cause them. Beyond avoidance, this can mean reading food labels carefully, or even calling manufacturers for product information.

Ninety percent of food allergies are caused by these eight foods:

1. Milk
2. Eggs
3. Peanuts
4. Tree nuts
5. Fish
6. Shellfish
7. Wheat
8. Soy

The prevalence of food allergies is a complex and growing problem. In response to this situation, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) collaborated with thirty-four professional organizations, federal agencies, and patient-advocacy groups to develop a comprehensive guide to diagnosing and managing food allergies and treating acute food allergy reactions. The guide defines various food allergies, allergens, and reactions, provides comprehensive information on the prevalence of different food allergies, tracks the history of food allergies, and reviews medical management techniques for people with food allergies.



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