Confused about food allergies- take a look below to increase your food allergy awareness!
Food Allergy 101:
There’s a great deal of misinformation in our current society regarding what food allergies are, and perhaps more importantly, what food allergies are not. All humans have immune systems, which are equipped with a special role: to detect and destroy bacteria and germs that might cause illness. However, in some individuals, their immune systems malfunction and attack harmless molecules, such as food proteins.
For those with food allergies when they eat this food first their bodies mount a defensive response, releasing IgE antibodies. IgE antibodies are type of protein produced by the immune system to protect itself from the food protein. Next this ultimately leads to a release in chemicals that cause the standard allergic reaction symptoms, including:
- Difficulty breathing
At the same time allergists and immunologists are not fully aware of what triggers this immune system malfunction in some people. However, research indicates that it may be a complex interplay between your genes, the environment, and the gut microbiome.
What we know is that delaying introduction of food allergens to children is not an effective way to ward off allergies. By withholding the introduction of foods like peanuts and eggs beginning at 6 months of age, this increases the likelihood that the child will develop an allergy, as their immune systems will not be primed to tolerate the food.
The Big 8:
Although people can be allergic to any food, allergists have classified “The Big 8” as the top foods causing reactions:
- Tree nuts (different than peanuts)
- Shellfish (different than fish)
In fact, young children are more likely to develop such allergies; however, they are also more likely to “outgrow” them. As a result, it’s uncommon for food allergies to develop during adulthood, but if this does occur, the possibility that the allergy disappears over time is unlikely.
Food allergy symptoms appear within minutes to hours after eating. More mild symptoms include hives, sneezing, nasal congestion, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach pain. However, severe symptoms include swelling of the lips, tongue, and throat, causing difficulty breathing.
The reaction can vary in severity with each exposure to the food. For example, a child with a peanut allergy may experience hives after his first encounter with peanuts, but may suffer from wheezing upon his second encounter. Therefore, it is essential to visit an allergist and receive a skin-prick test or food allergy panel blood test if you suspect that you are suffering from a food allergy.
Eating with Food Allergies:
Trying to find safe yet scrumptious recipes when restricted by food allergy concerns can be challenging and frustrating. However, numerous substitutes exist that can be used in place of allergenic foods when cooking.
For instance, if you are allergic to dairy, substitute coconut oil for butter in baked goods, or if you have an egg allergy, use a flax egg (1 tbsp flaxseed + 3 tbsp water) in baking. Such alternatives enable you to continue eating the foods you love, but in a safe manner.
For additional recipe inspiration, feel free to take a look at one of our favorite allergen-free meals below, Tomato Eggplant Chicken.
Looking for more recipes ideas and how to meal plan for you and your family? Reach out to us at 301-474-2499 or at firstname.lastname@example.org to set up an appointment with on of our Registered Dietitians!
Contributions for this blog by Danica Garvin, Dietetic Intern.