Allergies-Food That Reacts


It is estimated that almost one-third of people say they, or a family member, have a food allergy. But in fact, only 2 to 8 % of children, and 1 to 2% of adults have clinically proven allergic reactions to food. The reason for this discrepancy is that we often fail to discriminate between food allergies and food intolerances. True food allergies involve the body’s immune system, whereas a good intolerance originates in the gastrointestinal system and involves an inability to digest or absorb certain substances.

Doctors do not completely understand why so many people have allergies, though heredity is an important consideration. If both parents have allergies, their children will almost always have them all, although the symptoms and allergens may be quite different. There is no doubt that breastfeeding and the delayed introduction of solids foods reduces a child’s chances of developing food allergies.

Allergies develop in stages. When the immune system first encounters an allergen-a substance that it mistakenly sees as a harmful foreign invader-it signal specialized cells to make antibodies, or immunoglobulins, against it. There is no allergic reaction in that first exposure; however, if the substance again enters the body, the antibodies programmed to mount an attack against it will go into action.


There are many symptoms of good allergies, including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, indigestion, headaches, skin rashes or hives, itching, shortness of breath(including asthma attack), and, in severe cases, widespread swelling of the skin and mucous membranes. Swelling of the mouth or throat is potentially fatal because it can block the airways to the lungs.

In the most severe cases, anaphylactic shock-a life-threatening collapse of the respiratory and circulatory system may develop. Allergens usually provoke the same symptoms each time, but many factors affect intensity, including how much of the offending food was eaten, and how it was prepared. Some people can tolerate small amounts of an offending food; others are so hypersensitive that they react to even a minute trace.


Once allergens have been identified, eliminating those foods from the diet should solve the problem. But this can be more complicated than it sounds. Some of the most common food allergens are hidden Ingredients in many processed food. Also, many foods are chemically related; thus, a person allergic to lemons may also allergic to oranges and other citrus fruits. In some cases, the real culprit may be a contaminant or an accidental addictive in food. For example, some people who are allergic to orange juice and other citrus juices may actually be able to tolerate the peeled fruits themselves, since it is limonene, the oil in citrus peels, that often produces the allergic reaction.


Some allergens are easily identified because symptoms will develop immediately after eating the offending food. The most allergic food in infancy is the egg, milk, peanut, wheat, and soy, whereas in older children and adults tree nuts, peanuts, and seafood are the most likely to cause severe reactions. Many people have mild allergies to various fruits and vegetables.  Cooking can often reduce the allergenic potential of food as proteins responsible for allergies are degraded by heat. This, however, is not always the case. Roasting peanuts make them more allergenic.

Allergens are not always readily may be necessary to keep a carefully documented diary of the time and content of all meals and the appearance and timing of subsequent symptoms. After a week or two, a pattern may emerge. If so, eliminate the suspected food from the diet for at least a week, and then try it again. If symptoms develop,  chances are you have identified the offending food.

In more complicated cases, allergy tests may be required. One or more of the following may be used:

SKIN TEST:  The most common test, where food extracts are placed on the skin, which is then scratched or pricked, allowing the penetration of a small amount of the extract. Development of a hive or itchy swelling usually indicates an allergic response.

RADIOALLERGOSORBENT TEST(RAST):  Small amounts of the patient’s blood are mixed with food extracts and then analyzed for signs of antibody action. This test may be safer for hypersensitive people, who may have a severe reaction to the skin test.

Medically Supervised Elimination Diet And Challenge Tests: The patient is put on a hypoallergic diet of foods that are unlikely to cause allergies for 7 to 10 days, at which time all allergic symptoms should completely disappear. The doctor then administers small amounts of food or food extracts to see if an allergic response occurs.


Genetic modification involves the introduction of novel proteins into foods and raises the question of increased allergenicity. Researchers have examined the possibility of introducing a gene from the arctic flounder into a tomato to prevent the tomato from freezing. This raises the question of someone with a fish allergy having a reaction to a tomato. No such tomatoes have been introduced and none will be until the question of transferred allergens is resolved. Traditional crossbreeding can also introduce novel proteins for which they are no allergy testing requirements. Also, in the case of genetically modified foods, the new proteins are not necessarily consumed. Canola oil, for example, contains none of the proteins that were introduced into the plant for improved agricultural performance.


The best way to prevent an allergic reaction is to know and avoid foods that cause signs and symptoms. For some people, this is a mere inconvenience, but others find it a greater hardship. Also, some foods-when used as Ingredients in certain dishes-may be well hidden. This is especially true in restaurants and in other social settings.

If you know you have a food allergy, follow these steps:

  • Know what you’re eating and drinking. Be sure to read food labels carefully.
  • If you already have a severe reaction, wear a medical alert bracelet that lets others know that you have a food allergy in case you have a reaction and you’re unable to communicate.
  • Talk with your doctor about prescribing emergencies auto-injector. If you are at risk of a severe allergic reaction.
  • Be careful at restaurants. Be certain your chef is aware that you absolutely can’t eat the food you’re allergic to, and you need to be completely certain that the meal you order doesn’t contain it.
  • Plan meals and snacks before leaving home.



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