What Is A Food Allergy
Food allergies develop when the bodys immune system becomes sensitized and overreacts to a particular food component. That overactive immune response triggers the symptoms of the allergy, says allergist David Stukus, MD, the associate professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Allergy and Immunology, director of the Food Allergy Treatment Center at Nationwide Childrens Hospital, and member of the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology .
Eating even a small amount of the food may set off this response and lead to symptoms including hives, digestive issues, swollen airways, a sudden drop in blood pressure, pale skin, blue lips, fainting, dizziness, and in some cases, death, he says. Other more mild symptoms include an itchy or tingly mouth and runny nose.
If you think you have a food allergy or even a food sensitivity, its important to talk to an allergist about your symptoms and the best way to prevent and treat them, Dr. Stukus says. There are a lot of myths out there about food allergies, and these can be very harmful to people looking for answers about their symptoms. Here are the most common food allergies you need to know.
Reverse Your Food Allergies
You shouldnt let allergies prevent you from traveling, attending social events, and participating in other activities with your friends. Receiving food allergy desensitization treatments will decrease the severity of your allergies. Over time, this treatment will reduce your risk of experiencing an extreme allergic reaction. To learn whether you are eligible for this useful treatment, contact us at the Asthma Allergy Centre in Tigard, Oregon.
What To Eat Or Skip
You need to look at processed food labels carefully to ensure the product does not include any of the ingredients that cause your allergies.
For egg allergies, avoid products that contain albumin, ovalbumin, ovomucin, and ovomucoid. You should also avoid condiments like mayonnaise, beverages like eggnog, egg substitutes, fat substitutes made with egg, and common pantry staples like pasta and packaged cake or pancake mix. There are many food items you can eat that dont list eggs as an ingredient, including several breads, crackers, and cereals, certain soups, and egg-free breaded meats.
If you have dairy allergies, keep an eye out for artificial butter flavor, butter and butterfat, buttermilk, casein , hydrolysates, lactalbumin, and lactalbumin phosphate, lactose, lactoglobulin, lactoferrin, whey, and yogurt. Youll be surprised to find dairy in foods like hot dogs and sausages. You can consume various nut milks, oat milk, milk-free breads, eggs prepared without milk, meats not prepared in milk, pasta, potatoes , and non-dairy soups.
Apart from avoiding peanuts and tree nuts, make sure to also avoid artificial nut products, oils derived from nuts, chocolates with nuts, nougat, nut extracts, nut milks, nut pastes, and nut flours.
Anyone with a soy allergy must avoid a long list of soy products from edamame to tofu. Make sure that soups, Asian food, certain vitamins like vitamin E, vegetable gum, and starch contain no soy.
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When Should I Go To The Er
Without medical treatment, allergic reactions can be life-threatening. Go to the ER or call 911 if you experience:
- Difficulty breathing.
- Hives all over your body.
- Tingling hands, feet or lips.
- Throat swelling that constricts your airway.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Food allergies occur when your body mistakenly triggers an immune response to certain foods. This immune response, or allergic reaction, can cause a variety of symptoms such as hives, swelling or difficulty breathing. In severe cases, you may experience a life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis. Once you know what foods you are allergic to, the best way to manage your allergy is to avoid those specific foods. Healthcare providers can prescribe medications that reverse anaphylaxis and other allergy symptoms.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 03/24/2021.
Why Do Certain People Have Allergic Reactions
Food allergies appear to be on the rise. For instance, the say that among children, the prevalence of food allergies increased from 3.4% in 19971999 to 5.1% in 20092011.
Researchers are not sure why numbers are increasing, but there are some theories:
- Diet: Changes in eating habits in Western nations such as a lower consumption of animal fats and higher intake of vegetable fats may be the cause.
- Antioxidants: Most people eat smaller quantities of fresh fruit and vegetables than previous generations did. These foods are high in antioxidants, which help protect against cell damage. Some
- hygiene hypothesis , this theory notes that many children are now growing up in sterile environments with much lower exposure to germs. Developed countries, in which people tend to have higher use of antibacterial products and less exposure to healthy bacteria in the environment, have significantly higher rates of food allergies.
However, all of the above are theories, with no compelling evidence to support them.
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My Dairy Allergy History
I had been allergic to dairy protein my whole life, it caused chronic sinus infections which I was treated many many times for with antibiotics when I was a child. It wasnt until I became a vegan as a teen, and then stopped being a vegan a few months later that I found the connection- without dairy I didnt get sinus infections, with dairy I would get slammed with one in a few days.
Re-introducing dairy also gave me hives, itchy raised bumps on the skin.
This shows how important an elimination diet is! Some people would think that going vegan gave me a dairy allergy, but re-framing the perspective gave me the information that I needed. I had always had an underlying dairy allergy!
For the next decade I just avoided dairy for the most part, Id give in to an urge for real ice cream or pizza with goopy cheese every once in a while, get a painful sinus infection, and then avoid dairy again for the next few months.
New Therapy Targets Gut Bacteria To Prevent And Reverse Food Allergies
- Brigham and Women’s Hospital
- A new study identifies the species of bacteria in the human infant gut that protect against food allergies, finding changes associated with the development of food allergies and an altered immune response.
A new study identifies the species of bacteria in the human infant gut that protect against food allergies, finding changes associated with the development of food allergies and an altered immune response.
“This represents a sea change in our approach to therapeutics for food allergies,” said co-senior author Lynn Bry, MD, PhD, director of the Massachusetts Host-Microbiome Center at the Brigham. “We’ve identified the microbes that are associated with protection and ones that are associated with food allergies in patients. If we administer defined consortia representing the protective microbes as a therapeutic, not only can we prevent food allergies from happening, but we can reverse existing food allergies in preclinical models. With these microbes, we are resetting the immune system.”
The new approach represents a marked contrast to oral immunotherapy, a strategy that aims to increase the threshold for triggering an allergic reaction by giving an individual small but increasing amounts of a food allergen. Unlike this approach, the bacteriotherapy changes the immune system’s wiring in an allergen-independent fashion, with potential to broadly treat food allergies rather than desensitizing an individual to a specific allergen.
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Try An Elimination Diet
An elimination diet is my gold standard for discovering your food sensitivities. By removing certain foods for a period of time and slowly reintroducing them, youll not only reduce inflammation and give your gut time to heal, but youll be able to see which foods cause a reactionwhether it be FODMAPs, high-histamine foods, or something else entirely.
Learn About Food Allergy Desensitization
Food allergy desensitization is a specialized technique that is used to reduce the severity of food allergies. During this treatment, we will give you very small amounts of the foods that are triggering your allergies. Over time, we will gradually increase the amount of food that is included in your doses. This treatment will help you become used to these substances.
After you have completed your food allergy desensitization treatment, you will be less likely to experience a severe anaphylactic reaction if you are accidentally exposed to peanuts or other triggering substances. Reducing your risk of developing severe allergic symptoms will relieve your anxiety and worries. You will feel more confident about going to work, attending school, or participating in social events with your family members and friends.
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What Are The Symptoms Of A Food Allergy
Since the severity of food allergies will vary, you can experience a variety of different symptoms after you consume a possible allergen. If your allergy is severe, you might have difficulty breathing after you consume certain foods. You could also develop a rash, vomit, or have stomach cramps, and your face may begin to swell. If you develop these problems after you eat a specific food, you should seek medical help right away.
If your food allergies are relatively minor, you might have a headache or become flushed after you eat certain foods. In addition, you could develop mild stomach cramps or other digestive problems.
A Study Six Years In The Making
Could this bacterial imbalance, or dysbiosis, be the reason so many children are developing food allergies today? To find out, Chatila and his co-authors embarked on a study that took six years to complete.
Rachid began by studying the evolution of gut bacteria in babies with and without food allergies. She and her team collected stool samples from 56 food-allergic patients and 98 matched controls. Georg Gerber and his colleagues at Brigham and Womens Hospital then analyzed those samples for changes in their bacterial content. These studies established that the bacteria in the feces of babies with food allergies were different from those of controls. But did those bacterial differences play a role in their food allergies?
To find out, the team transplanted fecal bacteria from the babies into a special strain of allergy-prone mice. They fed the mice small doses of chicken egg protein to sensitize their immune systems to this allergen, then challenged the mice with a large dose.
The results: Mice that had been given fecal bacteria from food-allergic babies went into anaphylaxis, while those given fecal bacteria from healthy babies did not. This was an important clue that dysbiosis was having an effect, Chatila says. The fecal bacteria from food-allergic subjects did not protect against food allergy, whereas the bacteria from control subjects did.
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How You Can Eliminate A Food Allergy
Its not completely clear how, but scientists think a combination of factors, from genetics to the environment, play a role in children developing allergies to food such as peanuts, milk or shellfish. Many children will outgrow their food allergies. But for those who dont, physicians have figured out a way to harness the bodys immune response to eliminate allergic reactions to food. Eli Silver, MD, a pediatric allergy and immunology specialist at UH Rainbow Babies & Childrens Hospital, explains.
Identifying The Bacteria That Protect
But what specific bacteria might be offering that protection? To find out, the team turned to Lynn Bry at Brigham and Womens Hospital. Bry provided a mix of six bacterial species from the order Clostridiales, which previous studies had suggested might protect against food allergy. Sure enough, when these bacteria were given to the mice, the animals were protected from food allergy to chicken egg protein, whereas mice given other common bacteria were not. If you give them the right bacteria, the Clostridia, theyre completely resistant to food allergy, Chatila says.
Next the team gave the allergy-prone mice a single bacterium, Subdoligranulum variabile, that was missing from the stools of food-allergic babies. We asked: Can this one bacterium protect against allergy? And the answer was yes, Chatila says.
If you give them the right bacteria, the Clostridia, theyre completely resistant to food allergy.
Bry then provided a second mix of unrelated bacteria from the order Bacteroidales. It too was protective. And finally, when the team treated mice that already had food allergy with the Clostridiales or Bacteroidales mixes, they found those therapies completely suppressed the animals allergic reactions.
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Do You Have Food Intolerances Or Allergies
First, we have full-on food allergies. These are things like peanut reactions, but we also have IGA reactions , that can come about. These are ones that we do not yet know if they can be changed, so the picture is a bit unclear there.
Then, there are food intolerances. These are the ways in which certain foods simply do not make you feel well. Maybe it showed up on a test, or maybe it did not, but either way it is having a real effect on your ability to enjoy certain foods or ingredients.
Key Insight: If there are foods that are affecting you, it is critical to know that and to be able to identify them. Then, you can work around those foods.
So, how do we go about resolving this issue rather than simply living with it?
Heres something that might not be all that intuitive. When there are digestive problems that cause food intolerances, if you do not address the problem you may find yourself intolerant to more and more things.
There can even be a point where, because your diet is so limited, that by itself is hurting your gut flora and digestive function. This makes you reactive to more and more foods, which is the opposite intent of avoiding certain foods in the first place!
Are Food Allergies The Same As Food Intolerances
Food allergies are not the same as food intolerances. Allergies cause a response in your immune system. Allergies can be life-threatening.
Food intolerances cause a response in your digestive system. You may be able to eat a small amount of a food you are intolerant to without experiencing symptoms. Intolerances can be uncomfortable but arent usually dangerous.
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Food Allergy Vs Food Sensitivity
A food sensitivity, or food intolerance, is often confused with a food allergy. While the symptoms often overlap, the complications vary dramatically. A food sensitivity means that your body has trouble digesting a specific food. Symptoms are generally limited to digestive problems, including abdominal pain, nausea, gas, and diarrhea.
Common causes include lactose, an enzyme found in diary monosodium glutamate , a flavour enhancer, FODMAPs, a type of carbohydrate found in certain foods and gluten, which can cause a food sensitivity in some people and the serious autoimmune condition known as celiac disease in others.
A food allergy is an immune reaction that can impact various organs and can cause potentially dangerous symptoms. Symptoms can include some of the same digestive issues as food sensitivities, but the allergy also manifests in the skin, with symptoms such as hives, tingling, itching, and redness, and the respiratory system, with coughing, wheezing, nasal congestion, trouble breathing, and tightness in the chest.
While food sensitivities can be uncomfortable, food allergies can sometimes be potentially life threatening.
What Medicine Treats Food Allergies
The choice of medication and how it is given depends on the severity of the reaction.
- This drug is given only in very severe reactions .
- Epinephrine is injected and acts as a bronchodilator .
- It also constricts the blood vessels, increasing blood pressure.
- Another medication with similar effects may be given instead.
- For a less severe reaction involving the respiratory tract, an inhaled epinephrine bronchodilator may be used, as in asthma.
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Biologics Hold Some Promise For Allergies
Scientists are working with existing biologic drugs to see if they have a role to play in combating food allergies. They target specific parts of immune pathway, says Dr. Stukus. They show great promise in preventing symptoms from happening but theyre not a cure.
Researchers are looking at biologics now used for other conditions such as omalizumab , dupilumab , reslizumab , mepolizumab . According to an article in Current Opinion in Allergy and Clinical Immunology, omalizumab has been studied the most in relation to food allergies.
There are also trials looking at combinations of biologics plus oral immunotherapy. One inhibiting factor? Shots can cost $1,000 each and have to be repeated every couple of weeks, says Dr. Stukus. These treatments, existing or promised, wont be for everybody, he adds, and some people will continue to rely on avoidance. Its OK for people not to choose one, Dr. Stukus says.
Food Allergies Treatments And Natural Remedies
Despite the risk of severe allergic reactions and even death, there is no current cure for food allergies. The condition can only be managed by allergen avoidance or treatment of food allergy symptoms.
However, fortunately there are natural food allergies treatments and supplements that can help to boost the immune system and enhance the gut microbiota, helping to reduce the development of food allergies and food allergy symptoms.
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