Food Allergies: When Food Bites Back
Sharon Palmer, R.D.
We're a population of sensitive eaters. It seems as if nearly everyone avoids one food or another because of some sort of intolerance. In fact, the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network, an organization of health care professionals, government agencies and food industry members raising public awareness for food allergies, reports that food allergies afflict about 12 million people in the U.S. -- around 4 percent of the population.
In addition to those with clinically-proven allergic responses to foods, another one out of three people believe they have a food allergy and, as a result, change the way they (or their family) eats. Unfortunately, many people avoid foods unnecessarily because of confusions surrounding food allergies, which can have a negative impact on a balanced diet.
How do you know if you have a true food allergy? Three official definitions can help clarify the topic of food allergies, according to
1. Adverse food reaction: any untoward reaction after the ingestion of a food; may be due to a food allergy or food intolerance.
2. Food allergy: an abnormal immunologic response following ingestion of a food.
3. Food intolerance: an adverse food reaction mediated by a non-immunologic mechanism.
An adverse food reaction is a generic term that lumps together any kind of negative reaction you get from eating a food, no matter what its cause. If you have a food allergy, your immune system decides that a particular food is harmful to your body, thus it creates specific antibodies to it. The next time you eat that food, the immune system releases large amounts of chemicals, including histamine, to protect your body. These chemicals trigger allergic symptoms that can affect the respiratory system, gastrointestinal tract, skin, or cardiovascular system.
A classic example is a peanut allergy that might produce symptoms like swelling of the tongue and throat within a short period of time after consuming even a tiny amount of peanut.
Unlike a food allergy, a food intolerance does not involve the immune system and is not life-threatening. A common example is lactose intolerance, difficulty in digesting milk sugar (lactose) that produces symptoms like abdominal cramps and diarrhea.
Food allergies on the rise
Data from a nationwide telephone survey on self-reported peanut and tree nut allergies--the leading cause of fatal allergic reactions in the U.S.--reveals that the prevalence of peanut allergy among children tripled between 1997 and 2008 (
The researchers speculate that the rise in allergies could be linked to a number of factors, including the "hygiene hypothesis," the idea that less exposure to allergens and bacteria in childhood leaves the immune system underdeveloped; or, the timing of when the food is introduced; or, how the food is prepared (i.e., cooking changes the nature of proteins in nuts.)
Horwitz also reports that new evidence links antacids to the development of food allergies because they may interfere with digestion and allow food to enter the intestines before it is fully broken down, thus triggering an attack. No matter what the answer is, food allergies are a significant health problem and experts call for better medical treatment. The number of yearly emergency room visits due to food-induced anaphylaxis (severe, whole-body allergic reaction) in the U.S. is estimated at up to 125,000.
Digging for the truth. If you think you might have a food allergy, Horwitz suggests that your health care provider consider the following strategies:
Keep a detailed diet diary recording foods eaten, timing of adverse reactions, and specific symptoms related to reactions.
Rule out non-immunity-mediated food intolerances
Conditions like celiac disease (a digestive disease caused by an immune response to gluten) may be mistaken for a food allergy.
Short-term diet that removes one or more suspected foods from the diet to check for cause or elimination of symptoms.
Prick skin testing
Indicates presence of IgE (protein involved in food allergic reactions) antibodies specific to a particular food.
Double-blinded, placebo-controlled food challenge
Considered the "gold standard" of food allergy diagnoses; capsules or drinks with allergens (substances that cause allergic reaction) are provided to patients for observation in the doctor's office.
RAST (radioallergosorbent test)
Blood test done in laboratory with specific foods to determine whether there are IgE antibodies in that food.
Are there any interventions to treat food allergies other than avoidance of the food? Horwitz says that currently the answer is "no." If you have food allergies, he recommends that you discuss an epinephrine autoinjector (EpiPen) with your physician. Used to treat life-threatening allergic reactions, an EpiPen can be carried in your pocket or purse and is especially indicated if you have previously experienced anaphylaxis; have peanut, tree nut, fish or shellfish allergies; or have other conditions such as asthma. Living with a food allergy is a serious matter that requires serious care.
TOP EIGHT FOOD ALLERGENS
Eight foods account for 90 percent of all food-allergic reactions in
Available at Amazon.com:
- Fruit and Vegetables: Americans Fall Short
- How to Properly Eat Your Veggies
- Healthy Eating Tips for a Busy Lifestyle
- Top 10 Surprising Facts About Smiling
- Bad Habits That Are Good for You
- How to Decipher Product Labels
- New Applications Turning Cell Phones Into Medical Devices
- The Virtual Therapist Will See You Now
- New Findings Turning Coffee Into A 'Health Food'
- Food Allergies: When Food Bites Back
- Healthy Hot Drinks Avoid Caffeine and Sugar
- Have Glowing Skin for All Seasons
- Best Health Advice I Ever Got
- The Serious Hazards of Soda
- How to Turn Setbacks into Bounce-backs
- Stay Healthy When Everyone Else Is Sick
- How Personality Affects Your Health
- A Sensitive Issue: Salt Restriction
- Would Your Kitchen Pass a Restaurant Inspection?
- Should I Stop Taking B12 Supplements?
- Tap Water Toxins: Fact or Fiction?
- Love Your Liver: Natural Liver Support
- Healthy Eating Guide to Cereal
- Load Up On Vitamin C
- Vitamins That Keep Your Brain Young
- 5 Superfoods You're Not Eating
- Boost Dental Health with Honey and Agave Syrup
- Oral Health Sweet Shocker
- Screening Tests That Can Save Your Life
- Eat Fiber and Feel Better
- The Worst and Best Sweets for Your Teeth
- The Truth About Extreme Smile Makeovers
- A Smart Guide to Dietary Supplements
- Beat the Bedbug Epidemic
- Healthy Eating All Day
- Recreational Drugs Go Straight
- Normal Weight Obesity - A Growing Concern
- Food Allergies: When Food Bites Back
- Hybrid Fruit: The New Super-food
- Is Indian Cuisine Healthy Cuisine?
- Is 'Ethnic' Cuisine Healthier?
- Is the H1N1 Flu Pandemic Over?
- 5 Ways to Boost Your Immune System
- Surviving Cold Season: How Not to Get Sick
- 7 Healthy Habits in 7 Weeks
- Sleep More and Live Longer
- 4 Dangerous Health Emergencies: What to Do
- Heartburn-friendly Diet with Your Favorite Foods
- Put Brakes on Inflammation Through Diet and Lifestyle Strategies
- The Vibrant and Healthy Flavors of an Authentic Latin Diet
- Is It Hunger or Just Appetite?
- Stay Healthy the Easy Way
- The Importance of Dreams
- Boost Your Energy: Hour by Hour
- Stop Information Overload
- Breathe Like a Baby
- 5 Healthy Foods That Wreck Your Teeth
- Are You Falling for Dental Myths?
- Is Heart Attack Going Out of Style?
- Flu Season
- Preventive Care & Electronic Medical Records Guidelines Set
- Stone Age Diet Surprisingly Good For a Healthy Life Today
- New Tools Fuel Progress on Development of Genetically Engineered Farm Animals
- Beat Your Afternoon Energy Slump
- Small Healthy Habits With Big Health Benefits
- Relieve Stress and Uplift Spirits with Aromatherapy
- New Things To Try That Lift Your Spirits and Relieve Stress
- 5 Fast Breakfasts That Boost Your Health
- Much to Consider When Looking for a Primary Care Physician
- Apples Are the New Fish
- Watermelon: Summer's Antioxidant
- Prescription for Better Health: Go Alfresco?
- Are All Omega-3 Fats The Same?
- Sample a Semi-Vegetarian Lifestyle With a Flexitarian Diet
- Milk: When the First Food May Be the Best Food
- Foraging is Green Eating at Its Purest
- How to Lose Weight Safely
- Colleges Joining Effort to Turn Around Skyrocketing Obesity Rates
- Medical Claims for Marijauna - Just Blowing Smoke?
- The Hidden Health Benefits of Adult Braces
- 5 Things Your Dental Insurance Will Not Cover
- 4 Effortless Steps to Whiter Teeth
- 5 First-aid Tricks You Need to Know
- Heat Can Beat the Heart
- Eating for Your Blood Type -- Truth or Fiction?
- Salt Sensitivity Issue: Salt Restriction
- 5 Tips to Bulldoze a Bad Mood
- Genetically Engineered Foods Update: More Common Than You Think
- 5 Celebrity Trends That Could Harm Your Health
- Should You Travel Abroad for a Dental Procedure
- Super Foods to Boost Your Dental Health
- The Fight Escalates Against Fake Drugs
- Fermented Foods Are Making a Comeback
- Wean Yourself Off Processed Foods in 7 Steps
- An Update on Soy: It's Just So-So
- Is it OK to Take Ibuprofen P.M.?
- Colonoscopy: Is It Time to Go Virtual Colonoscopy
- Sleep Better Tonight (Fight Fatigue Tomorrow)
- Do-it-yourself Sunburn Remedies
- Take the Germ Quiz
- Healthy Mouth Equals Healthy Body
- 5 Biggest Flossing Mistakes
- Health Threat of Nitrates: Nitrites in Cured Meats
- Stop Dry Mouth Now
- Best Ways to Keep Your Teeth
- 5 Instant Ways to Stress Less and Smile More
- Be Suntan Savvy
- 4 Ways to Sneak in Sunblock
- Can Aspirin Do That, Too?
- A Natural Approach to Sweet Slumber
- Boost Your Brainpower
- Seeds of Life: Chia, Flax, Hemp and Pumpkin
- Microgreens Become Macro Trend to Follow
- Eat Your Way to a Healthy Smile
- Why and How to Get More Vitamin D
- Better Alternatives to Silver Fillings
- 5 Beach Safety Tips
- Traveling Light: Healthy Eating for Business Junketeers
- Healthy Snacks for Energy
- Shape-Shifting 'Tube Robot' Could Aid Heart Surgery
- Better Ways to Get Your Produce
- Cutting-Edge Cuisine Engages Senses Beyond Taste
- Eat for Your Eyesight
- Is It Better to Stop Smoking Abruptly or Gradually?
- Relieve Stress in 5 Minutes or Less
- Best Ways to Soothe Sensitive Teeth
- Turn a Clean Home Into a Healthy Home
- Largest Ever Cell Phone Cancer Study is Inconclusive
- Treating Early-Stage Esophageal Cancer
- TNF Inhibitors Offer Relief to Those With Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Advances in Breast Cancer Screening Helping to Fine-Tune Diagnosis
- First Aid for Summer
- The Microscopic World of Food Nanotechnology
- Screening Plays Key Role in Detecting Polyps Before They Become Cancerous
- Learn How to Read Supplement Labels
- Compression-Only CPR Can Replace Conventional CPR in Many Circumstances
- Diabetes: Could You Have Diabetes and Not Know It
- Fighting Inflammation with Food
- Bad Health Habits Rob Years From Life Span
- Beating Back Pandemics is a Cooperative Crusade
- The Importance of Decreasing Dietary Sodium
- Chocolate Reduces Inflammation Associated with Heart Disease
- Healthy Eating Tips for a Busy Lifestyle
- Olive Oil and Health
- Push for Healthier Diets Means Big Changes for the Food Industry
- How to Identify Suicide Risk Before It's Too Late
- Tips for Natural Allergy Relief
- Inflammation May Play Role in Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Longevity Revolution Will Restructure Life Around the World
- Maximum Fitness: CrossFit Training
- Tests to Optimize Treatment of Breast Cancer
- Enjoy the Health Benefits of Tea
- Can Your Toothbrush Make You Sick?
- Sunscreen Facts You Need to Know
- When does Knee Replacement Surgery Make Sense
- Is Hefty the New Healthy?
- Best Way to Take Heartburn Medication
- Aerobics Without Heartburn
- Stress Less: Ten Strategies That Work
- Paralyzed Limbs Revived by Hacking Into Nerves
- Take the Work Out of Workout
- Cultivate a Nutrient-Rich Approach to Eating for Life
- Treadmill Test Can Reveal Hidden Problems in Heart
- Researchers Break Through to Unconscious Patients
- Key Factors Related to Heart Attack Risk
- Type 2 Diabetes Increases Risk for Cardiovascular Problems
- Middle-Age Spread and How to Avoid It
- Fiber and Weight Loss: Learn the Secrets
- Hypochondria: The Impossible Illness
- Get the Lead Out: The Less Exposure to This Toxic Metal the Better
- Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Sugar
- Cultivate a Healthy Brain Lifestyle As You Age
- Regular Exercise Helps Protect Aging Brains
- Surgeries Can be Combined But May Not be Necessary
Copyright © 2010 Environmental Nutrition Newsletter. All rights reserved.