People often associate food with Life. After all, it is the essential part of our lives and helps us to carry out our day-to-day processes. But not everyone is lucky as us. Some people, actually a lot of them, are forced to associate food with poison. Yes, you heard it right. That’s the bitter truth about Food Allergies – an unpleasant and dangerous immune system reaction that occurs after a certain food is eaten. Living with food allergies is not easy; it’s a rollercoaster ride that’s scary, overwhelming, and nerve-wrecking.
But food allergies are more common than we actually think them to be. Studies estimate that more than 32 million Americans deal with food allergies on an everyday basis, and out of these 5.6 million are children below the age of 18. But what is food allergy? What causes it? What are its symptoms? Is there a way to prevent it? Well, in this article, we’ll help you learn all that and more to help you live freely, confidently, and without the unpleasant side effects of food allergies. So come, let’s read along.
What is Food Allergy?
Often confused with food intolerance, food allergies are caused by certain proteins in the food that make your immune system overreact and mount an abnormal immune response. To protect itself, your body releasing chemicals like histamine, which causes redness, inflammation, and swelling, which can get extremely uncomfortable, and in severe condition may even cause death.
Food sensitivity or intolerance, on the other hand, is triggered by the digestive system and can cause stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, gas, and diarrhea.
Food allergies can occur both in children and adult. While children might outgrow a food allergy, it is not possible for adults to get rid of their food allergies on their own and medical intervention is usually required.
Signs and Symptoms of Food Allergy
The signs of food allergy depend upon how your body reacts to the food you eat. While some may experience the same signs and symptoms, for others food allergy signs may vary. You may be suffering from one or multiple food allergies if, after eating certain foods, you experience:
- Swelling in lips, tongue or throat
- Itchy skin
- Skin rash
- Nasal congestion
- Throat tightness
- Inflammation in the gut
However, the most severe allergic reaction is anaphylaxis — a life-threatening whole-body reaction that impairs breathing, causes a dramatic drop in the blood pressure, affect your heart rate, and may even cause death.
Most food related allergic symptoms occur within two hours of ingestion. However, some symptoms may take 4-6 hours or even longer to appear.
Common Items That Can Give You Food Allergies
Although there are more than 160 foods that cause allergic reactions, the eight prominent food items that may lead to a frightening immune response from your body include:
- Cow’s milk
- Tree nuts
Being allergic to one food may also make you allergic to a similar protein found in some other food. Known as cross-reactivity, it happens when your immune system thinks one protein to be closely related to another and initiates its defensive mechanism.
Management and Treatment of Food Allergy
As of now, there’s no cure for food allergies. The only way to manage your food allergies is through timely medical intervention. You must consult your primary care physician if you are experiencing any of the aforementioned food allergy symptoms. He may advise you a skin and/or blood tests to detect various allergens that might be causing these unpleasant body reactions. On the basis of the results, he may advise you to:
- Avoid food products that are causing adverse body reactions or in which the allergy causing substances are present.
- Avoid food products with precautionary statements, like “may contain,” “might contain,” “made on shared equipment,” “made in a shared facility” indicating potential allergen contamination.
- Always read the ingredient labels clearly before consuming the food item.
- Follow a prescribed diet plan to stay healthy and avoid allergic food reactions.
- Maintain a food diary to know if there are other food products causing cross reactivity reactions.
- Be extra vigilant while eating out.
- Always keep your epinephrine auto-injector close at hand, if you have been prescribed one.
- Take your anti-allergic medications on time and stay in regular touch with your doctor and/or nutritionist.
Avoiding a food allergen is easier said than done. But a little care and expert medical help can make the process a lot easier. At EPIC Health, we provide comprehensive help and support to help you keep your food allergies at bay. Our expert physicians, dieticians, and healthcare professionals work with you, hand-in-hand, to help you detect your food allergies and develop a personalized diet and medication plan to help you effectively manage your condition and enjoy optimal health lifelong. So, if you or your loved ones are suffering from food allergies, get in touch with our primary care physicians for expert help and support.