What Are Food Allergies?
Time to read 7 min
Time to read 7 min
Food allergies are often considered the most common kind of allergy in children. They affect about 4-6% of all children the world over, and can vary from allergies to nuts and milk protein to allergies caused by shellfish and even wheat and soy products.
An allergy is the body’s misguided attempt at trying to fight a foreign body. As we know, our immune system helps protect us from harmful pathogens that make us sick. In some cases, the system is unable to differentiate between a harmful trigger and a perfectly harmless one, leading to an allergic reaction. You can read more about Allergies here.
Warning box: Food allergies are often considered life-threatening due to the symptoms they present. If you suspect that someone is having an allergic reaction, take them to a hospital immediately or administer an EpiPen if they have been prescribed one.
Types Of Food Allergies
Food allergies are caused by certain proteins in food that each individual may be allergic to. Most food allergies manifest in early childhood, but they can also appear in adults. Based on the food products causing the problem, food allergies can be grouped into:
Whatever the type of food allergy you may have, it is imperative that you avoid the trigger. This is because most food allergies can become life-threatening in a matter of minutes. We will discuss the precautions to take in a later section in the article.
As with all allergies, the specific cause of food allergies is not known. It has, however, been observed that people with allergies have a higher amount of IgE antibodies in their bloodstream when compared to individuals who do not get allergic reactions.
Some of the prescribed causes of allergies include:
There are several symptoms of a food allergy, and not all of them may manifest at the same time. When you suspect a food allergic reaction, it is best to see a doctor instead of waiting for more symptoms to show up. Some symptoms to look out for are:
Do not wait to see if these reactions will subside. Rush a doctor immediately whatever the time of day it may be. In children who cannot yet talk and are being introduced to new foods, keep a very close eye on how they feel after each new food. Follow your doctor’s advice on introducing foods that can potentially cause an allergic reaction.
(Add a box here with graphics to link to the Allergies main article. Text in the box: Not sure if it is a food allergy? See more symptoms and causes here.)
Food allergy testing is the only conclusive way to identify if an allergy is indeed present. Some people recommend maintaining a food diary, but such a process is fraught with problems and may not always give out accurate results.
However, if your doctor has asked you to maintain a food diary in tandem with other diagnostic options, be as diligent about it as possible.
Not all food allergies cause an immediate rash and a reaction. This is why an allergist will ask you questions on when you ate a potential trigger, after how many hours you started to notice the symptoms, whether this has happened before and any treatments you have tried in the past. (https://acaai.org/allergies/types/food-allergies/testing)
Some common tests include:
Warning Box: The Oral Food Challenge or OFC is a last-resort test and can turn fatal if done carelessly. Please do not try this at home, as a medical professional knows exactly what doses of food to administer.
Treatment (Medication) - Allopathy, Homeopathy, Ayurveda
Some studies are underway that study the effect of introducing denatured proteins to patients with food allergies to desensitize the body to its presence. However, clinical trials are still pending.
In Ayurveda, the concept of doshas states that each human system needs certain foods, and would do well to avoid other foods. Extending this principle one step further, some doctors recommend identifying your dosha and consuming food appropriate to balance it so as to prevent allergies.
The primary aim of a nutrition plan in food allergies is to avoid the trigger that causes an allergic reaction.
However, food can be used to bring about positive change in the body, and irrespective of whether your food allergies disappear or not, a healthy diet that builds up the immune system can help you lead a better quality of life.
Until recently, the digestive system was simply seen as an organ that processes food and sends nutrients into the body. But, the digestive system is also affected by the foods it does digest- in other words, we are what we eat.
The wrong foods eaten over a period of time can cause imbalances in how we digest food, and disturb the balance of the gut flora. And as we know, gut flora play an important role in our immunity.
When you receive a food allergy diagnosis, some changes in how you live and eat are in order. Here are some general recommendations:
However, while these precautionary measures are necessary, the aim is to help you lead a better life. With this in mind,
How to Prevent Food Allergies
Unfortunately, there is no conclusive proof that food allergies can indeed be prevented. Most studies in this direction are lab tests and cannot be implemented at face value.
Remember, allergies may seem like the end of the world, but they are not. With an action plan for when they are triggered, and healthy living options for when they aren’t, you can lead a happy life.
*Medical Disclaimer - The following information is for educational purposes only. No information provided on this website, including text, graphic, and images, are intended as substitutes for professional medical advice. Please consult with your doctor about specific medical advice pertaining to your condition(s)