Food Allergies: Discover the Culprits, Prevent the Symptoms

In today’s modern world, more than one-fourth of all adult Americans are convinced that some of the foods they bite into wind up biting them back with recurrent symptoms such as hives, skin rashes, diarrhea, and vomiting. In fact, these are the most common telltale signs of allergies.

According to most health experts, true food allergies are quite rare, probably affecting less than 4% of the adult population. There are some individuals who think that they have a food allergy but in fact they have a food intolerance.  The problem with food intolerances is that they also produce some of the same uncomfortable symptoms that food allergies create hives, rashes, bloating, cramping, gas, and diarrhea.  A food allergy is an abnormal response to a food triggered by your immune system.  An intolerance is an abnormal response but doesn’t involve your body thinking that an infection is present (does not involve an immune system response).

It is important that the person knows if what he is experiencing are true food allergies. In addition, if a person has a bona fide food allergy, he must learn how to avoid the culprit. Here is a list of the common culprits that cause food allergies in humans.

These foods account for almost 90% of all food allergies:

  1. Peanuts
    As a legume, the peanut can be a healthy addition to most diets. But it is among the most allergenic of all foods. In people with severe allergies, just a fraction of a peanut kernel can be enough to set off a reaction.  This also means avoid peanut butter!
  2. Tree Nuts
    Walnuts and other tree nuts, like Brazil nuts, almonds, cashews, pistachios, filberts, pecans etc., are among the most allergenic foods. If a person is allergic to one true nut variety, there is chance that he is also allergic to others, but not necessarily to peanuts, which are legumes.
  3. Shellfish
    Although shrimp gets much attention as an allergen, a broad class of shellfish can cause an allergic reaction. This class includes other crustacean like lobsters, crabs, and prawns, and mollusks such as snails, mussels, oysters, scallops, clams, squid, and octopus.
  4. Finfish
    Compared with other major food allergens, the proteins in fish are more vulnerable to heat and other forms of preparation. Therefore, some people allergic to fresh cooked fish can eat the canned version without difficulty.There are instances that a person might be able to eat canned tuna, but have a problem with fresh grilled tuna, but he does not count on it. Hence, in people with extreme severe fish allergies, even inhaling the vapors from cooking fish can set off a reaction.Alternatively, reactions to toxins in fish are sometimes mistaken for fish allergies. Scromboid poisoning from fish occurs when fish are contaminated with high levels of histamine, the primary irritant in classic allergic reactions.
  5. Milk
    Most adverse reactions to milk are not allergies but rather lactose intolerance. That is, insufficient amounts of the digestive enzyme lactase lead to cramping, bloating, and other abdominal symptoms.Most individuals with lactose intolerance can generally manage small amounts of milk. However, in people with true milk allergy, any consumption of milk or milk-related proteins can be dangerous.
  6. Tofu
    Tofu is made from soy, a major allergen in children. Some adults react, too.
  7. Wheat
    If people notice that wheat products cause symptoms of an allergy, it is quite possible that the person is allergic to the grain. However, it is still better for a person to be sure and see a doctor. Some people have celiac disease, a rare condition resulting from intolerance to gluten, which is present not only in wheat but also in rye, barley, and oats.

There are 3 ways to determine your food allergies:
Diet — Write down all foods you eat in a diary and any reactions you have.  Eliminate the food you suspect, do the symptoms go away?  Double check by eating the food you suspect, do the symptoms return?  (Do this only if the symptoms are not life threatening).

Scratch or Prick Skin Test — A healthcare provider will place an extract of the suspected food on your lower arm then scratch this portion of skin and look for swelling or redness.

Blood Tests — Blood tests measure the presence of food specific IgE (immune system response) in your blood.  There are three common tests, RAST (radioallergosorbent test), CAP-RAST, and ELISA (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay).

If you have a food allergy your doctor may prescribe some or all the following:
Avoid allergic foods.
Wear a medical alert bracelet.
Carry an epinephrine pen.
Take antihistamines to relieve symptoms of hives, sneezing and runny nose.
Carry a bronchodilator to relieve asthma symptoms.

According to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, researchers have not yet proven that allergy shots reliably relieve food allergies.


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Kairi Gainsborough
23. March 2016
Kairi Gainsborough
23. March 2016
Thanks for providing the list of the most common food allergies. My daughter has developed hives several times in the past year, so I suspect that she may be allergic to something at home or at school. I don't want to try and guess what it is, so I might need to take her in for testing.


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