Food allergies happen when the body’s immune system overreacts. Its main function is to fight germs and other diseases. Bacteria, viruses and other foreign organisms are being fought by our antibodies. But for some unknown reasons, the immune system reacts inappropriately and thought that certain substances in a food are harmful. This also happens in other forms of allergies like in pollens, dusts, medicines and even the weather. The reaction of the immune system and not the allergen is the cause of the symptoms.
A child with an allergy to certain foods like peanuts, who ate a cupcake topped with peanuts, would experience an allergic reaction. Immune system cells in the body such as the mast cells will be stimulated by the antibodies to release certain chemicals into the bloodstream. Histamine is the most common chemical secreted by these cells.
Which are the most common food allergies?
The most common food allergies found in adults are peanuts, walnuts, milk, shellfish, shrimp, lobster, crab, crayfish and eggs. In recent studies, the peanuts, a type of legume, is considered as the main food that can cause severe allergic reaction or anaphylaxis. This condition is characterized by a sudden drop in blood pressure that can be life threatening if immediate medical attention is not provided.
The pattern of food allergy in children is a little different than adults. In children, the most common food allergens for them include milk, peanuts and eggs. Adults will have to live with their allergy for life, but there is chance that children can outgrow them. Usually, the foods that children and adults normally eat are the ones that they develop allergies to. An example of this is in Japan, where there are many people who are allergic to rice, whereas allergy to codfish is more common in Scandinavia.
Identifying Food Allergies
Often a simple patient’s history that includes an elimination diet and a diet diary can pinpoint many food allergies.
There are cases where a simple patient history is not enough to diagnose food allergy, so an allergist may require patients to keep a record of the all of the contents of every meal and note if any reaction is felt while eating. This can help isolate ais a pattern in the reactions.
An elimination diet is where an allergist instructs patients to avoid eating a certain food suspects that commonly cause allergic reactions. These include; milk, eggs, peanuts, nuts, wheat products, strawberries and other similar foods. The diagnosis can most likely be made if the symptoms don’t come back after the patient eliminates the food from his or her diet. However, this method can NOT be used if the reactions are irregular or if the patient is having severe reactions.
The “gold standard” in identifying food allergies is the double-blind food challenge. This is done by having several suspected allergy foods placed in a capsule. The patient is then asked to ingest a capsule one at a time to see if there are any reactions that will happen. In this test, the capsules are prepared by someone else, so the allergist doesn’t also know the contents of each capsule. This test can confirm which foods the patient is allergic to. However, this test can’t be done in patients with severe allergic reactions. Another downside of this test is it’s high cost because it takes a lot of time to perform. Additionally, this test is not safe to use for patients with multiple food allergies.
Western Medical Doctors also use scratch-puncture tests, skin tests and a variety of blood tests.
Traditional Food Allergy Solutions
The most common solution for food allergies is to avoid the allergen food. The patient must read all the ingredients of the food that they plan to eat. Eggs, peanuts and milk are some of the common allergy foods that may appear in hundreds of manufactured food products. Governments regulate the listing of food ingredients on food labels. The problem is, that food allergies can be triggered if the product doe not contain the ingredient, but is prepared in a facility where the ingredient is present. This happens a lot with peanut and nuts.
There are cases where even the most careful person can make a mistake and eat a food they are allergic. So it is important that the patients know how to protect themselves in these cases. As a precaution, patients with severe allergic reactions are advised to wear medical alert necklaces or bracelets that say they have food allergy and they have severe allergic response. These patients are also advised to always have a syringe of epinephrine or adrenaline with them. Such patients are trained to administer the drug on their own and get immediate medical attention. Allergic reactions or anaphylactic response is a fatal condition.
Children with food allergies must have special care. Parents and caregivers should take precautions and must know how to keep children away from foods they are allergic. This also includes proper training for the management of allergic response like the administration of adrenaline or epinephrine. Schools are also required to have emergency response plans in place.
Other food allergy symptoms that are not part of an anaphylactic reaction can be managed by taking some medications. Antihistamines are given to relieve hives, sneezing, runny nose and gastrointestinal symptoms. This can be taken if the patient ate the allergen food, but this drug can’t be used in preventing an allergic response if it will be taken before they eat the food they are allergic.
Investigative and non-approved treatments for food allergies include the injection of extracts of the food which the patient is allergic in small quantities. The goal is to desensitize the patient from the food allergen by administering it on a regular basis over a period of time. The effectiveness of this method in treating food allergies hasn’t been confirmed yet by medical experts.
Make your life a lot easier when it comes to food allergies … give me a call (Wendy — 604-839-9789) to discuss the alternatives.