Food allergies are often not recognized as such. This is because the symptoms get attributed to some common illnesses like food poisoning or infections. Food allergies can cause symptoms such as a stomach ache, diarrhoea, rashes, hives and in extreme cases, even anaphylactic shock. It happens when your immune system reacts aggressively to some protein present in food and rejects it as though it were a harmful foreign body that must be fought.
How food allergies happen
When your immune system encounters an allergenic protein in your food, it reacts by releasing antibodies known as Immunoglobulin E or IgE that attaches itself to the cells lining your skin, respiratory tracts and the gastrointestinal tracts. Every time you eat foods containing the allergenic protein, these cells release histamine and other chemicals that cause common allergy symptoms like diarrhoea, itching, swelling, wheezing and sometimes anaphylactic shock, which can on occasion, be fatal if not treated immediately.
Foods that cause allergies
Most of the food allergies in children are found to be caused by proteins present in foods like milk, eggs, soy and peanuts. In adults, the most common allergy-causing foods are peanuts, tree nuts (like almonds, walnuts, pistachios, and Brazil nuts), as well as some types of fish. A child's allergy to eggs may be caused by the immune system's reaction to the presence of proteins like ovalbumin and conalbumin. Allergy to proteins like casein and beta-lactoglobulin can cause severe allergies to milk and other dairy products.
If you are suffering from food allergies, keep track of the food you eat each day in a food diary. Write down how your body reacts to each food you eat. If you find that you have some unusual reactions to a particular food, stop eating it immediately. If your reaction is severe, consult a physician.
Diagnosis and Treatment
If you suspect that you are allergic to some food, approach an allergist for a complete evaluation of your condition. It is possible that you may just be having some intolerance to certain foods. With the help of different allergy tests, an allergist can diagnose whether or not you have a food allergy and track down the foods responsible.
If you are allergic to some foods, avoid the particular food and find alternative non-allergenic sources of nutrition. Do not try to make sudden changes to your daily diet, because it can take a toll on your health. Consult your doctor and follow a prescribed plan to eliminate and replace the food you are allergic to.
Although there is no known cure for food allergies, you can manage some types of symptoms by taking an over-the-counter antihistamine medication. For children with milk allergies, there are a number of nutritional supplements like Neocate Active and Aptamil Pepti that can help in maintaining their nutrition, while avoiding the ingredients they are allergic to. If you are prone to severe anaphylactic reactions to some food, always carry an epinephrine injector or your allergy medication with you at all times, especially when you are going to eat at a restaurant or a friend's place.