No Thanks, I'm Allergic!
It seems like food allergies are becoming more and more common these days. In fact, studies show that food allergies have increased about 18% from 1997 to 2007. Currently, about 4% of the population has a true food allergy. Whether you have a food allergy, know someone with one, or are just interested in learning more, there are some basics you should know.
The most common food allergies are often called the “Big 8”:
• tree nuts
If you think you might have a food allergy, ask your doctor for a skin prick test. The test will tell you if you have an immune system response (antibodies) to a specific protein in a particular food. To protect against this protein “intruder” the body creates antibodies which trigger a mild to severe allergic reaction. Even a tiny bit of the protein can cause a bad reaction, so be sure to read the label!
Food intolerances are more common in the population. The most common intolerance (lactose intolerance) affects 10% of the population. A food intolerance is characterized by a digestive system response rather than an immune system reaction to a food. The digestive system can’t properly break down a substance in the food, which causes irritation and unpleasant symptoms.
Take a look at this table to understand more about the difference between allergies and food intolerance.
|Rash or hives||Abdominal pain|
|Shortness of breath||Gas, cramps, or bloating|
|Chest pain||Irritability or nervousness|
|Swelling of the airway to the lungs||Heartburn|
Do you experience any of these symptoms? If so, you may have a food allergy or intolerance.
Is gluten-free the way to be??
Have you been hearing a lot about going gluten-free?
People with Celiac disease must avoid all gluten (found in wheat, barley, and rye). Celiac disease is a genetic disease with an immune response, though it is more complex than a wheat allergy. If someone with Celiac disease eats gluten, the body’s response causes damage to the small intestine which in turn hurts the body’s ability to absorb nutrients.
Other people may have different symptoms when they eat gluten containing foods. Symptoms of gluten intolerance are abdominal pain, bloating, gas and diarrhea. These are common symptoms of many ailments, so it’s important to pay attention to your diet and your body’s reaction to certain foods. The best way to understand more about the way your body digests food is to keep a food and symptom diary to identify patterns.
Gluten-free products are quite trendy these days. But if you don’t have Celiac disease or gluten intolerance, there is no need to cut out gluten. After all, gluten is just a natural protein found in wheat.
“Spring in the air:" Are Your Allergies Driving You Crazy?
You may have Oral Allergy Syndrome (OAS) if you’ve noticed itching and burning in your mouth and throat after eating certain fresh fruits or vegetables. Up to 30% of people with a pollen allergy may also experience OAS. These unpleasant symptoms usually happen during peak pollen seasons.
This syndrome is the result of cross-reactivity between proteins in fresh vegetables, fruit, and pollen. Symptoms are usually mild lasting only a few seconds, and rarely progress to anything severe.If you experience allergies in the left column, pay attention to your reaction when you eat the foods in the right column.
|Banana, Melon (Honeydew, Cantaloupe, Watermelon)|
|Birch||Apple, Hazelnut, Potato, Pear, Walnut, Carrot, Celery, and Cherry|
|Grass||Orange, Tomato, Melon|
|Mugwort||Apple, Peach, Cherry, Melon|
Luckily, cooking fruits and vegetables decreases the OAS reaction.
While food allergens and intolerances can be dangerous, annoying and/or stressful, it pays to be prepared. Vigilance and careful planning can help you avoid emergencies. But just in case.... we’re here for y’all!
This week’s blog was written by Kristie Butler and Nikki Drilias. Kristie is a graduate of the University of Florida and Lipscomb University and she hopes to pursue a career in diabetes eduction. Nikki is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and would like to work in pediatric wellness and chronic disease prevention. Kristie and Nikki are almost done with their 10-month dietetic internship at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and will soon be Registered Dietitians!