Heather Little-White, PhD, Contributor
It is not uncommon for persons to react after eating certain foods as a result of food allergies. Very often, the food allergies are self-diagnosed and people usually use the term 'allergy' very loosely, describing any reaction to food as an allergy when it may not be so.
Food allergies may be inherited and may be easy to identify very early in life, especially among children. Changes in the body's immune system may manifest as true food allergies. An allergen, which is the protein in the food to which you react, sets off the chain reaction, releasing antibodies for protection. The antibodies trigger the release of chemicals such as histamine which cause controllable symptoms for food allergies such as runny nose, itching and increased heart rate.
Any food can trigger an allergic reaction, but some foods are more likely to do so than others. Common foods are nuts, milk, wheat, fish and soy. But allergic reactions to these products are outgrown. It is important to read labels for foods that commonly cause an allergic reaction presented in other forms.
Milk may be represented as casein, lacto albumen, milk solid pastes, sweetened condensed milk and dried milk solids.
Egg may be in the form of albumin, dried egg solids, livetin and ovoglubulin.
Corn may come as corn solids, cornstarch, corn syrup, dextrose, corn oil, corn sugar, glucose and corn alcohol..
Legumes may be represented as acacia gum, carob, and locust bean gum.
Soy may be presented as hydrolyzed vegetable protein, soy concentrate, soy protein, textured vegetable protein and vegetable-protein concentrate.
Food allergies cause different reactions in different persons. Symptoms may appear within seconds after eating the food or it may take longer. In extreme cases, just touching or smelling the food can provide an allergic reaction in persons who are extremely sensitive. Most reactions affect the skin, respiratory system, stomach or intestines.
Skin reactions include swelling of the lips, face, mouth, tongue or throat. There may be hives, rashes, redness and itchy skin or eyes.
Nose, throat and lung reactions include onset of asthma, wheezing, difficulty in breathing, sneezing, coughing, nasal congestion, or a runny nose.
Stomach and intestinal reactions include vomiting, diarrhoea, cramps, gas, abdominal pain and bloating and nausea (Food Allergies, Dobler, American Dietetic Association).
Food allergies are dangerous and need total evaluation after symptoms develop. For example, if the body develops an anaphylactic reaction (that is different systems of the body reacting at the same time), then without immediate medical attention, the person could die. Foods more likely to cause this reaction include shellfish, tree nuts and peanuts. When allergy-prone individuals are dining out, they should wear an identification bracelet or necklace so others can be aware of their allergy. Persons with such sensitivity should carry adrenaline that can be injected quickly to counter the reaction.
It is important to keep a record of how the body reacts, and reaction time to each food so it can help with the clinical assessment of the allergies and eliminating unrelated medical conditions. Making the diagnosis includes keeping a food diary, a medical history, and physical examination of the patient and laboratory tests. Doctors may suggest an elimination diet to identify the food or foods that may be the culprit.
If you are diagnosed as having a food allergy, you have to plan meals carefully to eliminate the food or category of food which maintain good nutrition in the diet. You try to find new ways of cooking when you eliminate certain foods from the diet. When you eat out, you should review restaurant menus carefully and ask about certain ingredients before you order. It is best to order plain foods and keep it simple.