A runny nose, swollen eyes, bouts of sneezing, and cough might signal an allergic reaction. These allergies can occur due to various reasons, including dust, pollen, food items, and change in season.
When your body gets hyper-alert- sometimes in a life-threatening way- against a food you just ate, it is usually a food allergy. Food allergies affect 5% of children and 4% of adults. The prevalence of food allergies has increased a few times. According to a report, nut allergy has increased up to 10% in kids.
What is Food Allergy?
Food allergy is defined as a
‘hypersensitive reaction of your immune system to a certain food.’
Your immune system deems that food item a harmful substance and launches a series of responses, such as releasing histamine that causes inflammation. Sometimes, even a small amount of that particular food is enough to send you to the ER.
Usually, allergens cause several signs and symptoms, including digestive problems, hives, swelling, and rashes. In some people, these allergens can lead to a life-threatening condition called anaphylaxis.
There is no set time frame for food allergies. You can get an allergic reaction even from the food that you were fine eating before. On the contrary, you can outgrow your allergy to particular food items as you grow.
Are Food Intolerance And Food Allergy Same?
No, they are not!
People often misunderstand food allergy as a less-serious condition called food intolerance. Food intolerance causes discomfort in your digestive system, whereas food allergy is a response from your immune system.
Food allergies are far more serious and sometimes life-threatening than food intolerance. Food intolerance is, at most, some irritating feelings, nothing too dangerous. You can even eat a small amount of food you are intolerant to without having any symptoms.
Know Your Enemies! Foods That Trigger Allergic Reactions:
You can have an allergic reaction to any type of food. But, these eight food items account for about 90% of food allergies.
- Tree nuts
Kids usually outgrow their food allergies as they grow. But, some allergies might persist to adulthood, such as peanut allergy.
Symptoms of Food Allergy:
Symptoms of a food allergy can range from mild to severe. They might also differ from one occurrence to another.
The most severe allergic reaction is anaphylaxis. It is a rapidly progressing whole-body allergic reaction that can be fatal. It affects your breathing, causes a decrease in blood pressure, and reduces your heart rate. The anaphylactic reaction is treated with an injection of epinephrine (adrenaline) given promptly. That’s why folks with allergies are suggested to keep an epi-pen (a device to give off a dose of epinephrine).
Several other symptoms of food allergy are as follows:
- vomiting/ nausea/ stomach cramps
- Hives or rashes
- Shortness of breath
- Cough and wheezing
- Shock or circulatory collapse
- Swelling of throat and tongue (difficulty in speaking and swallowing)
- Dizziness and weakness
How To Diagnose Food Allergies?
If you are having the above symptoms, consult your physician. There is no particular test to confirm or rule out a food allergy. Your physician might perform the following series of tests to confirm the diagnosis.
1. Dietary review and symptoms:
Your doctor will ask for a detailed dietary review- what you ate? How much did you eat? The symptoms it caused? The time at which you ate? Doctors also perform a thorough physical examination and take your family and medical history.
2. Skin prick test:
In this test, the doctor pricks a small amount of suspect food into your skin via a needle. The skin is then monitored for any bump or reaction. However, this test is not 100% accurate.
3. Oral food challenge:
In this test, the doctor gives you the suspect food in gradually increasing amounts. If you do not react to the given food, you are free to add it to your diet. The patient is blindfolded to remove the chances of psychological effects.
4. Blood test:
Blood tests measure the amount of Immunoglobulin E (IgE)-the antibody released in response to an allergen- in your blood.
Management and Control of Food Allergies:
After diagnosing your food allergy, the prime task is to avoid the food that causes it. There is no cure or preventive medicines for food allergies. Avoiding allergen food is the best course of action.
Always read the labels to ensure that you don’t eat any food that causes you allergic symptoms. Also, when eating out, always ask about the ingredients beforehand.
Foods that Help Alleviate Allergies:
One thing that might help in managing food allergies is the food itself. Adopting a healthy diet- some specific food- helps you manage signs and symptoms of allergy.
“An overall healthy diet helps control all conditions, including allergies”. ~ Leonard Bielory, MD, American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI)
Here are a few foods you can use to alleviate allergy:
Turmeric is a potent anti-inflammatory and anti-allergic herb. Also called the golden spice, it is used frequently in Asian cuisine and medicine. The main component of turmeric, curcumin, provides anti-allergic effects by blocking histamine release from mast cells.
It also has an excellent anti-inflammatory effect, thus soothing the allergy symptoms. Other curcumin benefits are gut health, weight loss, and strong immunity.
Ginger is another herb having tons of potential benefits for the human body. It has anti-inflammatory properties that help alleviate symptoms of allergy. A 2016 study shows that ginger alleviates allergic rhinitis symptoms by decreasing the production of cytokines (immune signaling molecules).
3. Vitamin C- rich food:
Stock up on citrus fruits to get rid of nasty allergies. Vitamin C is an anti-allergic that blocks histamine release from inflammatory cells. It is also an antioxidant that counteracts the inflammatory allergic response.
Brussels, oranges, lime, broccoli, and sprouts are some major sources of vitamin C.
Tomatoes contain vitamin C and lycopene, an antioxidant that decreases inflammation, relieving allergy symptoms. Lycopene also improves lung function after exercise in asthma patients.
Food allergies can be irritating, painful, and often life-threatening. You may not have control over them or have a cure for them. But you can fight them the same for your health. Avoid all foods that rile up the symptoms. Also, include healthy foods into your diet, such as ginger, probiotics, and turmeric for allergies. Keep an epi-pen with you for emergencies.