Food Alergies

Image of Bar

For some people, just getting through a meal can be a life or death situation. For others, eating the wrong food brings on cramps, hives, headaches or diarrhea - annoying but not life-threatening. Still others suffer the same symptoms and think they're allergic to a food, but in fact are not allergic at all.

You may have a food allergy, or you could have all the symptoms of a food allergy,.But, instead be experiencing food intolerance, an adverse reaction to a chemical in a food, or a case of food poisoning. None of these conditions is a true food allergy. Scientists have difficulty figuring out just how many people have food allergies because so many other conditions look the same.

True food allergies, like other allergies, occur when a person's immune system works too well. The body thinks the food is an invading enemy, and puts up it's immunolgic armor. In most allergic people these defenses are IgE antibodies, mast cells, histamines, and other natural guards.

These overactive defenses can produce symptoms like nausea, vomitting, itching, swollen lips, or hives. In the most severe cases the victim can fall into shock and die. Why allergic reactions strike different people in different places is still a mystery. But one thing is certain: after your first bad allergic reaction you'll do anything to avoid the next one.

Whether or not your symptons constitute a true allergy is less important than avoiding those wrenching cramps, or that terrible itching rash.

Top Allergic Offenders

          -cow's milk
          -shrimp, crabs, lobster
          -clams, oysters, scallops

Avoidance of the suspected foods is the main ingredient in the fight against food allergies.

If you are suffering from a mild allergic reaction, antihistamines can be helpful. You can take them in the same way you'd fight a hay fever allergy. More severe reactions require a prescription anti-inflammatory steroid.

Depending on the severity of your allergies, you may be able to eat small quantities of the offending food without suffering a reaction. Other allergens, such as peanuts, can cause life-threatening reaction in just tiny amounts. If you're really lucky, you will outgrow your problem.

Allergy shots have not been proven effective against food allergies. This goes not only for the food you're allergic to, but also the foods that are cross-reactive to your food problem. that means if you're allergic to shrimp, you should avoid crabs and lobsters as well. Ask your doctor for a list of foods to avoid.

Get yourself to a doctor immediately if you show signs of a serious allergic reaction: a tightness in the throat, breathing difficulties, or swollen tongue. People who've experienced a life-threatening allergic reaction should carry an emergency kit containing epinephrine, also known as adrenaline.

After trying to rule out all the other things that might be causing your symptoms, a doctor might try the following:

Skin Test: Skin or blood testing should show that you may be allergic to a specific food. Many people test positive to food allergens, but don't react to the food itself. Because this happens so often many doctors will confirm the results of skin or blood tests with a food challenge test or an elimination diet.

Food Challenge Test: First your doctor will tell you to stop eating the food suspected of causing your allergy. Then, over a period of time you will take different capsules. Some will contain your possible food allergen, while others will contain "placebos" or "sugar pills." Only your doctor will know what is in the capsules. After taking each pill, you will report any allergic reactions. The doctor decides which foods you are allergic to based on which capsules you took just before your symptons appear. ( In holistic medicine things are done differently, generally with better results. I encourage you, to go to both a regular and holistic doctor).

Elimination diet: Your doctor will restrict your diet allowing you to eat only certain foods. Gradually, other foods will be added or re-introduced to your diet. Again, the doctor will know which foods you are allergic to based on which foods you ate just before your symptoms appeared.

Sources: Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.
National Jewish Center for Immunology and Respiratory Medicine, Denver, Co.
Options in Health, DTC, Denver, Co.
Denver Public Library

Home Icon E-Mail Icon

 Date & Inn Image