What Is Food Allergy: An Inside Look at the Causes and Treatment of Food Allergies

What Is Food Allergy: An Inside Look at the Causes and Treatment of Food Allergies

Have you ever eaten food, then you have an unpleasant reaction? There is a chance that you might be having a food allergy. It is estimated that 50 million-plus Americans have some type of allergy. Almost 4% of the adults and close to 6% of the children have food allergies.

Food allergies symptoms will manifest more in babies and children, but they are not limited to age. Some people develop allergies to foods that they were enjoying for years. At times, some people outgrow their allergies. 

There are instances where people mistake food intolerance with food allergies, so let’s see the difference.

Food Allergies vs. Food Intolerance

When you have eaten food, then an ingredient in the food, especially a protein, is mistaken by the immune system as a harmful substance, it creates a defense against it. The antibodies which the immune system releases to combat the “invading” protein cause the allergic reaction. It is safe to say that you have food allergies if this is the case.

On the other hand, food intolerance is not an immune response but a digestive system response. It happens when an ingredient in the food irritates your digestive system or when your body is unable to break down or digest it properly. 

Intolerance to lactose found in dairy products, including milk, is an example of food intolerance.

One of the most distinct ways of telling the difference between food allergy and intolerance is in the amount of food ingested. Even a small amount of food can trigger an allergic reaction. But, in food intolerance, you have to ingest a large portion of the food.

Causes

Environmental and genetic factors can cause food allergies, in case you wonder what causes food allergies. If your parents or one of your parents has food allergies, then the chances are that you might have food allergies as well.

Symptoms of Food Allergies

The food allergies symptoms may involve the gastrointestinal tract, the skin, the respiratory tract, and the cardiovascular system. They might manifest in the following ways:

  • Hives or food allergy rash
  • Vomiting and stomach cramps
  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Tight and hoarse throat
  • Weak pulse
  • Dizziness
  • Blue or pale skin
  • Shock 
  • Repetitive cough
  • Swelling of your tongue affecting speech and breathing
  • Anaphylaxis

Types of Food Allergies

There are different types of food allergies, including:

IgE Mediated

You will typically have an allergic reaction when the immune system mistakenly identifies an ingredient in food as a harmful substance. The first time you ingest the food that has the specific food, the body releases an antibody known as immunoglobulin E (IgE).

When you eat the food again, the immune system releases IgE again to combat the false enemy. It also releases histamines. It is a powerful chemical that can affect the gastrointestinal tract, respiratory system, cardiovascular system, and skin.

Some of the foods known to trigger food allergies include:

  • Fish
  • Peanuts
  • Shellfish
  • Tree nuts such as pecans and walnuts
  • Cow’s milk
  • Eggs
  • Soy
  • Wheat
  • Pollen-Food Allergy Syndrome

It is also known as oral allergy syndrome. If you have hay fever, then you might be affected by oral allergy syndrome. If you fall into this category, you will have an allergic reaction if you eat certain fresh vegetables and fruits. Even spices and nuts can cause an allergic reaction. 

There are specific proteins that can be present in spices, nuts, vegetables, and fruits, similar to those found in pollen. When you ingest these products, then you will have an allergic reaction.

  • Exercise-Induced Food Allergy

Some people might have specific allergic reactions such as itchiness or lightheadedness immediately they start exercising. In severe cases, you may experience hives or anaphylaxis. It is best if you do not eat roughly two hours before exercising or not eating those specific foods at all.

  • Non- IgE Mediated

The symptoms experienced in this type of food allergies involve the digestive tract. You might experience vomiting or diarrhea, and the symptoms might take longer to develop.

Treatment and Management

Currently, there is no food allergy treatment. The best way to manage food allergies is to avoid eating the foods that trigger allergies. The moment you have identified the food, stop eating it. This means that you will have to read the labels on foods.

But no matter how careful you are, expect to ingest some amount of the food accidentally. If you have a history of having anaphylactic reactions, always wear a medical alert necklace or bracelet. Also, you should always have two auto-injectors containing epinephrine.

You can use the following medications if it is not an anaphylactic reaction:

  • Antihistamines for runny nose, hives, sneezing, and digestive issues
  • Bronchodilators for asthma-like symptoms

Some allergic reactions can be life-threatening, so you need to be aware of your allergies. If you need any assistance, make your way to our Altus Emergency Center in Baytown, and we will take care of you.

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