Food allergies are usually exaggerated types of immune system responses that are triggered by specific foods. Normally, the immune system works to defend the body against possibly harmful types of substances, toxins, viruses and bacteria. However, some people have defence reactions against certain foods, causing the body to produce immunoglobulin type antibodies to fight off the alleged invader. Though many have intolerances towards foods, food type allergies are not as common. In fact, a genuine food allergy also produces histamines that cause the body to react quickly to the allergen (s).
The most common foods that cause allergic reactions include wheat, nuts, soy, shellfish, peanuts, milk and eggs, though each person is different. Allergies to food can start at any time of life. Many begin in childhood, but many kids outgrow them by age five. However, allergies to shellfish and nuts may last for a lifetime. Despite this, many people may have reactions to other less common food allergens, including some vegetables, fruits, meats, chocolate, oils and even food preservatives, colorants and additives. Some may develop later in life when no allergies ever existed before.
Diagnosis and Symptoms
Allergies need to be properly diagnosed by a doctor. In some cases the allergic reactions are so severe that a person has to be hospitalized because of anaphylaxis shock, which can be life-threatening. Symptoms can happen immediately, within a couple of hours or rarely as late as eight hours after eating the food offender. Symptoms include wheezing, hives, diarrhea, a hoarse voice, tummy pains, itchy skin, runny nose, congestion and nausea. Severe symptoms need emergency care – difficulty breathing/swallowing/talking, fainting, swelling of the tongue/lips/face/eyelids, vomiting, lowered blood pressure, blocked airways and throat, and a quickly spreading rash. Confirmation of a specific food allergy is done via skin, blood and challenge type tests. However, these tests must be done by a doctor in case the reactions are severe and medical intervention is needed.
Living with Food Allergies
The best way to live with food allergies is to avoid the foods that cause the allergies. However, doctors may recommend probiotics, antihistamines, alternative foods, and/or an emergency epinephrine for anaphylaxis reactions, carried with the person at all times and administered into the thigh with a needle. For many food allergy sufferers, a complete change of diet is also called for. Sufferers have to monitor ingredients in store bought foods and those provided anywhere outside of their home. With food labelling not being as good as it should be; living with food allergies can be very challenging and frustrating. As a result, many food allergy sufferers develop good cooking skills, learning to make all of the meals from scratch.