t the end of a busy day, how do you shop for your loved ones? Especially for someone who has a food allergy. The trip to the grocery store becomes a full investigation followed by a do’s and don’ts list. It definitely is tough. Shopping draws all of your attention to the bright coloured labels because that’s where that one havoc- creating item will be listed. In this case, you should be examining all the labels along with studying each ingredient. In case of a peanut allergy, you need to go through the ingredients of that pack of cookies. Why is this step so important each time? Because even if you have purchased that item a hundred times before, there’s always the probability of alteration in the items and a different formulation presented by the manufacturers.
Supermarkets nowadays have a wide range of “free from” options in the food section. There are many products that have gluten-free and dairy-free ingredients which will immensely help you when you need to buy an item that is free from allergens. But how would you know whether you could have food allergies or food intolerance? Let’s have a look at how food allergies have risen in the past few decades and what precautionary measures you should have in mind in order to deal with them.
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In the US, every year, there are millions of Americans facing allergic reactions to food. According to recent research, food allergies are said to be more common now than ever before. Children nowadays are more susceptible to infections than the previous generations. Peanut and tree nut allergy has tripled between 1997 and 2008 in the US children.
These allergies have a similar impact to the effects of food intolerance, which is another similar condition. There are a number of similarities between both the conditions which include allergy, intolerance and sensitivity which ends up in having an unpleasant reaction to food. This article would review the types of food allergies and food intolerance and what makes them so common these days.
Food intolerance vs. food allergies:
An abnormal reaction of the body’s immune system towards a certain food soon after ingesting it, is termed as a food allergy. Food allergies can be triggered by many allergens depending on the way our body reacts to them. It is often mistaken with another condition known as ‘Food intolerance’.
Normally, food is vital for life and doesn’t necessarily cause an allergic reaction in some, but it can cause a serious illness in others. There is an overlap of few symptoms and signs elicited by both the conditions. James Li, M.D., Ph.D, an allergy specialist, says that when it’s an allergy, minute amounts can cause huge symptoms, often seen in the case of peanuts. On the other hand, tiny amounts do not have a noticeable effect in the case of food intolerance.
The greatest difference between the two terms is that Food allergies are IgE mediated while food intolerance doesn’t involve the immune system and is caused by the lack of a certain enzyme that is required to digest the food. Foods that trigger these reactions include dairy and gluten products and foods that cause gas and bloating.
There are various causes to this situation which include the following:
To digest foods completely, enzymes are required in the body to speed up the work. In these cases certain enzymes are absent. This is more evident in the case of people who have lactose intolerance.
There are chemicals that can cause intolerance such as in coffee, tea and chocolates.
Ingested salicylates can also be the cause of intolerance known as “Salicylate intolerance”. They are found in many foods and hence, can be ingested by the people resulting in adverse effects to the body’s system.
How to use testing kit for food allergies
The most common types of food intolerance include lactose, gluten, wheat, caffeine, histamine present in mushrooms and pickles. The question at this point rises as to how would one diagnose food intolerance? Here, the elimination technique plays an important part. In this process, you can remove food from your diet for a particular period of time and notice the effect on the body. After some time, this food can be reintroduced to the body which can help you identify the root cause of the condition.
What if it isn’t food intolerance?
Food allergies alternatively, bring a different set of symptoms along with them. For example, reactions on the skin like hives, itching and swelling. It may also cause vomiting and diarrhoea. The most severe reaction that an allergy can cause is anaphylaxis, which is a life-threatening situation. It needs immediate medical care otherwise it can be fatal.
Major food allergens:
There are a total of eight major foods that are responsible for this reaction:
Generally, people think that they might be allergic to a food item, but the case appears to be the opposite because of the similarity lying between both the conditions.
Why are food allergies common today?
In the past few decades, foods causing allergies was an unfamiliar term. There are a number of theories that might be a contributing factor to the growing statistics.
One of the theories states that there has been a significant change in the diet which has higher sugar content and a lower fiber diet. This change in eating habits has led to change in the gut flora. The genetically modified produce is exposed to pesticides and antibiotics. This leads to a considerable amount of change in the number of good bacteria required for a balanced system. As a result, eating this food leads to change in the normal flora and eating food that is genetically altered creating weaker immune responses and inability to cope with bacterial infections.
‘Hygiene Hypothesis’ is another factor that is thought to be the cause of rise in allergies in the recent times. The repeated exposure of the pathogens generally helps in boosting one’s immunity but living in a germ-free environment never gives the immune system of young children a chance to develop immunity against bacteria. The obsession with a clean environment is exposing children to more sickness instead of health.
Furthermore, we should let children play in the open instead of creating indoor spaces as regular exposure to bacteria can give the body a better chance to develop a defence against that certain pathogen. The decrease in Vitamin D can also create a negative effect on the immune system, as less percentage of the population gets the daily sun exposure due to an increase in indoor activities. The need of the hour is to monitor the diet intake. High fibre and low sugar diet is the way to go, where we can achieve a balanced internal system.
How do you choose the best allergy medicine ?
You should be visiting an allergist when you think you might have a food allergy. On eliminating food from your diet if there is a minor change seen in your health, it’s convenient to visit the doctor for further assurance. Apart from this, one should read labels before eating and know the symptoms when a reaction occurs.
By seeking proper medical care and strictly avoiding the food allergens, the possibility of having a reaction-free life increases.