Food Allergy is pretty common to have. Besides, they affect about 5% of adults and 8% of children and these numbers are rising. People with food allergies have an immune system that responds to certain food-borne proteins. Such substances are targeted by their immune system as if they were toxic pathogen, like a bacterium or virus. Symptoms of food allergy are most common in babies and kids but may appear at any age. You can even develop a food allergy to something that you have eaten for years without any problems.
A Food allergy require two elements of the immune system. One is Immunoglobulin E (IgE), a type of protein that passes through the blood as an antibody. The other is mast cells that you have in all body tissues, but in areas like your nose, mouth, lungs, skin, and digestive tract, specifically.
Some cells make lots of Immunoglobulin E (IgE) for the portion of the food that causes your reaction, called an allergen, the first time you eat a food you’re allergic to. The mast cell surface binds the released IgE to itself. Your body won’t react to it but it means you’re ready now. The next time you eat the food, the allergens interfere with that IgE and cause the mast cells to release chemicals like histamine. Such chemicals can cause different effects based on the tissue they are in. And because some food allergens are not broken down by the heat of cooking or by stomach acids or enzymes to process food, they may pass into your bloodstream. They can travel from there and cause allergic reactions throughout your body. Timing and position are affected by the digestion process.
Food Allergy Symptoms
Food allergy symptoms may appear anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours later after exposure, and may include some of the following:
- Skin rash
- Stomach ache
- Tingling in the mouth
- Lips and face might swell
- Your mouth may feel little itchy
- Drop in blood pressure in your body
- Burning sensation in the lips and mouth
- And, You might experience signs such as vomiting
8 Most Common Allergic Foods
Anaphylaxis is the most severe allergic reaction a life-threatening allergic reaction to the whole body that can hinder your breathing, induce a dramatic drop in your blood pressure and influence your heart rate. Anaphylaxis may occur within minutes of exposure to trigger food. It can sometimes be life-threatening therefore should be treated immediately with epinephrine injection (adrenaline).
Even though any food may trigger an adverse reaction, the most common allergic foods responsible for nearly 90% of all food allergies, referred to as the big eight,” are:
1. Cow’s Milk
An allergy to cow’s milk is most widely seen in infants and young children, especially when they were introduced to cow’s milk protein before they were six months old. This is one of the most common allergies children face in their childhood. Although, in kids, this allergy diminishes with time thus making it less common in adults.
Cow’s milk allergy may occur in both IgE and non-IgE forms.
IgE allergy appears to react within 5–30 minutes of intake of cow’s milk. Symptoms such as swelling, rashes, hives, diarrhea and, in rare cases, anaphylaxis occur.
A non-IgE allergy typically has more abdominal signs such as vomiting, constipation or diarrhea, as well as inflammation of the intestinal wall and can be quite difficult to diagnose. This is because sometimes the symptoms that indicate intolerance and also there is no blood test for this. If you’re diagnosed with the allergy then you can only avoid cow’s milk and foods containing the same.
This includes foods and drinks such as:
- Milk Powder
- Ice Cream
Breastfeeding mothers are also advised to remove milk and milk products from their diet.
Hen’s egg allergy is the second quite common food allergy affecting infants and young children after cow’s milk. We can find eggs in so many foods. However, children outgrow the allergy to eggs by the time they’re 16. Many egg allergy sufferers respond to egg whites, not yolk. To be healthy, eat no part of either. Even if you separate them, the yolk still has some of the proteins in it that are white. Like other allergies, egg allergy treatment is a dairy-free diet. Also, make sure to avoid eggs in forms of egg powder, fried eggs, and egg solids.
You may not need to avoid all egg-related foods, however, as heating eggs will change the shape of the proteins that cause allergies. This can stop your body from seeing them as dangerous, which means that they are less likely to react.
One study found that around 70% of children with an egg allergy could handle consuming biscuits or cakes containing a cooked egg portion. That’s not the case for everyone, though, and the effects of ingesting eggs when you’re allergic to them can be serious. Therefore, you should check with your doctor before reintroducing any egg-containing foods.
Allergy to soy, a soybean product, is a common food allergy. During childhood, soy allergy sometimes starts with a reaction to the infant formula based on soy. Although most kids outgrow an allergy to soy, some bring the allergy into adulthood.
The mild soy allergy signs and symptoms include hives or scratching in and around the mouth. In rare cases, soy allergy can cause an allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) that threatens life. Tests can help confirm a soy allergy. If you have soy allergy you’ll be advised to avoid soy and soy related products which can be a bit difficult. Many foods may contain soy. Yet generally, if a label contains the word “soy,” skip it. It includes foods such as:
- Soy milk and cheese
- Flour made from soy
- Soy sauce and tamari
- Soy ice cream and yogurt
- Vegetable Oil, Gum, Broth, and, Vegetable starch
NOTE: Other terms on food labels may mean that the product contains soy, “soy” and “soybeans” include:
- Glycine Max
- Natural Flavoring
- Artificial Flavoring
- Hydrolyzed plant protein
- Textured vegetable protein (TVP)
- Hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP)
- Mono Diglyceride Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
Finned fish is one of the most common source of food allergy. The allergy is typically a lifelong condition. Unlike other allergies, Around 40% of people suffering from fish allergies undergo their first allergic reaction as adults. People with a fish allergy may be allergic to some types of fish, but not others. Although most allergic reactions to fish occur when someone eats fish, sometimes people may react to touching fish or breathing in steams from cooking fish. When someone is allergic to fish, the immune system of the body, which usually battles pathogens, overreacts to proteins in the food. Whenever the person eats (or, in some cases, treats or breathes in) fish, the body thinks that these proteins are toxic invaders and releases chemicals like histamine. Symptoms of fish allergy may include:
- Stomach cramps
- Hives or a skin rash
- Vomiting and/or diarrhea
- Stuffy or runny nose and/or sneezing
- Anaphylaxis (less common)
The allergy to wheat is the allergic reaction to one of the proteins found in wheat.
This seems to have the most effect on children. Though children with an allergy to wheat sometimes outgrow it when they reach the age of 10. When a person with a wheat allergy comes in contact with wheat, their body views wheat as a danger. Antibodies are sent out by the body to strike. This immune response can cause many symptoms, some of which may present life-threatening consequences. Though wheat allergy is widely confused with celiac disease, the two are separate disorders with different diagnoses and different symptoms. Celiac disease, which is one of the proteins found in wheat, induces an unusual immune response to wheat. Wheat allergy symptoms usually develop with minutes of contact with wheat. The symptoms are similar to those arising from other food allery, and include:
- Hives or Rash
- Irritation of the Mouth and Throat
- Nausea and Vomiting
- Nasal Congestion
- Eye Irritation
- Trouble Breathing
Luckily, many food options are available in grocery stores and restaurants for people who must avoid wheat. Such healthy wheat-free foods include fresh fruits, onions, beans, and unpacked meats. A product labeled “gluten-free” is by definition wheat-free. Also, you can eat products made from other grains, like:
Peanuts once were a staple in snacks, but these days they are largely off-limits for a growing number of children and adults. These are not the same as tree nuts that grow on trees (almonds, cashews, walnuts, etc). They grow underground and are part of another family of plants, the legumes. Other legumes include beans, peas, lentils, and soya.
Being allergic to the peanuts doesn’t mean you’re more likely to be allergic to another legume. Nonetheless, as they move into their teenage years, about 15 – 22 percent of children who develop a peanut allergy will feel it resolved.
A peanut allergy is treated, like other allergies, using a combination of patient history, skin prick monitoring, blood testing, and diet problems. At the moment, complete avoidance of peanuts and peanut-containing products is the only effective treatment. However, New treatments for children with peanut allergies are being developed. These involve giving specific and limited amounts of peanuts under strict medical supervision in an attempt to desensitize them to the allergy.
7. Tree Nuts
Tree nuts come in many shapes and sizes from the common almond, cashew, and walnut, to the lesser-known pine nut and lichee nut. These nuts, along with peanuts and shellfish, are one of the most commonly associated food allergens with anaphylaxis a severe, rapid-installing allergic reaction that can be fatal.
The allergy to tree nut normally lasts a lifetime; less than 10 percent of people with this outgrow the food allergy to tree nuts.
People usually get confused between peanuts ad tree nuts. Peanuts are legumes, not nuts; but, according to reports, between 25 and 40 percent of people allergic to peanuts often react to at least one tree nut. Seeing an allergist is the easiest way to clear up the confusion and treat the tree nut allergy.
Symptoms of this allergy may include:
- Difficulty swallowing
- Itching of the mouth
- Throat itching
- Itching of eyes, skin or any other area
- Nasal congestion or a runny nose
- Shortness of breath
- Abdominal pain, cramps, nausea, and vomiting
- Anaphylaxis, a potentially life-threatening reaction that can impair breathing and can send your body into shock.
People having nuts allergy are advised to carry an Epinephrine autoinjector (epi-pen) with them at all times. The epi-pen is a potentially life-saving device that allows allergy sufferers to inject themselves with an adrenaline injection should they start having a severe allergic reaction. Adrenaline is a naturally occurring hormone that when stimulated, activates the body’s “fight or flight” reflex. When given to people with severe allergic reactions as an injection, it can reverse the effects of the allergy and save the person’s life.
A shellfish allergy is caused by the body consuming proteins that are known as shellfish from the crustacean and mollusk families of fish.
Examples of shellfish include:
Symptoms of an allergy to shellfish usually develop rapidly and are close to allergies to other IgE foods.
An allergy to shellfish doesn’t seem to improve over time, so most people with the condition will exclude all shellfish from their diet to prevent an allergic reaction. Interestingly even the vapors from frying shellfish will cause a shellfish allergy in those who are allergic. This means that other people are also cautioned not to be around seafood when cooked.