Food Allergies & Sensitivities

It is estimated that up to 15 million Americans have food allergies. This includes about one in thirteen children under the age of 18.  Each year in the U.S., 200,000 people need emergency medical care due to allergic reactions to food! (Food Allergy Research &  Education)

A food allergy is a medical condition when a food causes a harmful immune response.  This allergic reaction happens because the immune system attacks proteins in the food that are normally harmless.  The body thinks the food in an invader.

The symptoms of an allergic reaction to a food can be mild or severe and can appear immediately or up to two hours after exposure. Symptoms include:

  • tingling sensation in the mouth
  • itching
  • rash
  • hives
  • swelling of the tongue or throat
  • vomiting
  • cramps
  • difficulty breathing
  • drop in blood pressure
  • severe reaction called anaphylaxis can be fatal

Any food could be a potential allergen, but there are 8 foods that are the most common:

  1. dairy
  2. eggs
  3. peanuts
  4. soy
  5. gluten or wheat
  6. tree nuts (walnuts or cashews for example)
  7. fish
  8. shellfish

*Some allergists have concerns that a sesame allergy is on the rise*

Having a food allergy is nothing to take lightly.  It can impact your quality of life.  There is no cure as the best thing to do is avoid the food and know how to recognize any symptoms.  It’s not easy to steer clear of these foods as they are used abundantly in many processed foods.  Luckily, there is a law that requires food manufacturers to list any of the common 8 potential allergens on food packaging.  Also, if there could be any cross-contamination where the food was processed.

Food sensitivities or intolerances are not as serious as food allergies but can have many similar symptoms.  The immune system does not play a role in food sensitivities as it does with food allergies and symptoms of intolerances are not life-threatening.

Sometimes a food intolerance is from a deficiency in an enzyme that is needed to breakdown a food.  An example would be lactose-intolerance.  This is from a shortage of lactase, which is needed to digest the sugar.

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Food sensitivities are usually self-diagnosable.  There aren’t any accurate, reliable tests to determine food intolerance.  The best way to figure out if you have any food sensitivities or intolerances is through an elimination diet.  My next blog post will be all about the elimination diet and how you can discover foods that may cause symptoms.

An allergic reaction to a food can appear immediately or within two hours, but signs of a food intolerance may take longer to show up.  It can take hours or up to 2 days.  The following are signs or symptoms of food sensitivity or intolerance:

  • stomach and abdominal pain
  • bloating
  • headaches and migraines
  • hives
  • feeling “under the weather”
  • runny nose
  • chronic muscle or joint pain
  • rashes or other skin conditions

As you can see, experiencing any of these symptoms on a regular basis would not be very pleasant.  The best treatment for a food sensitivity is to avoid the offending food and the hardest part is figuring out what the offending foods are.

Two important facts to remember are

                           *food allergy is an immune system reaction to a food

                           *food intolerance is an inability to digest a food

Food allergies or sensitivities don’t have to wreck your life!  They can be controlled.  A medical processional can identify a food allergy.  A sensitivity or intolerance to a food is best found by doing your own research. Listening to your body and knowing the signs and symptoms will set you up for success.

Do you have a food allergy?

Do you experience any of the symptoms of food sensitivity?

One Response to Food Allergies & Sensitivities

  1. I am so glad that I do not have any food allergies! I know people really suffer from them