Food Allergies Awareness Week: Common Food Allergies to Avoid
7 minute read
Food allergies are all too common, so much so that an entire week is dedicated to recognizing and learning about them. While some food allergies are not serious, others can be fatal, so it is essential to identify them and treat right away.
Knowing what to avoid is the only way to protect your health, and with food allergy cases rising each year, this awareness is becoming more critical than ever.
Understanding Food Allergies
It is possible for any food to cause an allergic reaction, but the majority of cases reported come down to specific foods. Even if you don't have an allergy to these foods, it is still possible to have one for something else, so be aware of your body’s reactions to any new foods that you try. All food allergies initiate an immune system response.
Your immune system incorrectly sees the proteins in the food as dangerous and launches an attack. Histamines are then released, which in turn triggers widespread inflammation as a defense. Regardless of the allergy, the response is the same and individuals can react to even the smallest amount of the trigger food.
The response can often occur within minutes but sometimes can take up to a few hours, making it hard to identify what caused the reaction initially.
♦ Low blood pressure
♦ Difficulty breathing
♦ Itchy rash
♦ Swelling (tongue, mouth, face)
More severe allergic reactions result in anaphylaxis, which causes swelling of the throat, shortness of breath, and low blood pressure. This can come on suddenly and can be fatal without quick intervention.
Antibodies are blood proteins that your immune system uses to identify and fight infecting pathogens. Food allergies are typically divided into two main categories based on this antibody function. IgE antibody allergies result in the release of the antibody IgE and non-IgE antibody allergies do not. In the case of non-IgE allergies, different parts of your immune system are triggered to fight the supposed threat.
The 8 Top Foods to Watch Out For
Even though any food can cause an allergic reaction because every individual is different, there are seven main culprits known to be responsible for the majority of food allergy problems, and we’ve included one that might surprise you.
1. Cow’s Milk
This allergy is usually identified in babies and young children, and most children outgrow it. It is, therefore, less common among adults. While both IgE and non-IgE antibody reactions can occur with milk, IgE reactions are more common and happen within 30 minutes. The non-IgE reactions are based in the gut as opposed to the immune system and present as diarrhea, constipation, or vomiting.
The foods you need to avoid are milk, milk powder, cheese, butter, cream, yogurt, and ice cream.
Egg allergies are more common in children, and again, most will outgrow this by the time they are sixteen. It is possible to be allergic to egg whites and not the yolks because the proteins in each part of the egg are different.
An egg-free diet is the best solution, and you should also avoid foods that contain eggs, as cooking can change the protein shape and your body will be unable to identify the problem protein accurately.
Unlike other allergies, fish allergies can appear later in life. The reactions can be very severe, so most individuals with fish allergies carry an epi-pen with them at all times. Because fish and shellfish do not contain the same proteins, it is possible to be allergic to one kind and not the other.
Typically, individuals with an allergy to one type of fish will also be allergic to other types too.
Peanut allergy is very common and can cause fatal reactions. Peanuts are a legume, so they are not classified the same as tree nuts. It is advised, however, to avoid all nuts if you have an allergy to one. It is also believed that people with a family history of peanut allergies are at increased risk. A peanut-free diet is the best way to combat this allergy, as well as avoiding any peanut-containing products.
Soy and products that contain soy can trigger reactions. Symptoms include an itchy mouth, rash, difficulty breathing, and in severe cases anaphylaxis. The only treatment is the removal of soy and soybean products from the diet completely.
6. Tree Nuts
This allergy is from nuts that specifically come from trees, such as almonds, Brazil nuts, pistachios, walnuts, and cashews. You will also be allergic to any foods that contain these nuts such as oils and butters. It's best to avoid all tree nuts even if only one affects you because being allergic to one increases your risk of an allergy to another type.
Not to be confused with Celiac disease or gluten intolerance, a gluten allergy causes similar symptoms but is different. Those conditions are the result of an abnormal immune response to the gluten protein. People with wheat allergies only need to avoid wheat, and can still safely consume other foods that contain gluten.
It's important to remember that food products, as well as beauty products, can contain wheat.
If you are allergic to garlic, you could be allergic to it raw or cooked. Symptoms can start with a skin reaction, and then lead to a mouth, tongue, and throat reaction. Swelling can become so severe that the person affected might find it hard to breathe.
It’s important to seek emergency medical care if breathing becomes difficult in even the slightest way.
Another common reaction to a garlic allergy is gas and stomach disruption. This can lead to stomach cramping and diarrhea. If you experience any of these symptoms after handling or eating garlic, make sure to avoid the food or any dish that contains the food, which includes pre-packaged and frozen meals.
The Bottom Line
It’s important to understand the difference between food allergies and food intolerance. Intolerance to any particular food does not involve your immune system, so while they can cause disruptions, they are not life-threatening.
Identifying and avoiding foods that cause allergic reactions is vital for your health and longevity. If you think you have a food allergy, consult your doctor right away so you can maintain optimal health with simple dietary changes.