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Food allergy has become a really popular problem among adults these days.

Despite that there are numerous great foods available, some people still face a problem with inability to eat everything they would like without having serious health problems. How does food allergy occur and is it possible to escape from it?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are 4% of adults who have a food allergy.

Symptoms of food allergy

There are numerous symptoms that can occur, and some of them can be more or less severe as one of the most severe reactions is anaphylaxis.

It is life-threatening. This reaction influences all the body and can impair the breathing, cause a dramatic blood-pressure drop, affect heart rate. Anaphylaxis can occur within minutes of contact after eating food that a person has an allergy. To avoid it to be fatal to any person, it is needed to give an injection of epinephrine which is adrenaline.

Almost any kind of food can indeed trigger an allergenic reaction, but in most of the cases, these are particular foods.

It is proved that eight types of food are responsible for about 90% of allergic reactions and those are:

  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Tree nuts
  • Peanuts
  • Wheat
  • Fish
  • Shellfish
  • Soy

Also common are seeds like sesame and mustard seeds. Usually, one person has an allergy to one particular food group or product, but there can also be cases that there are many foods.

Symptoms of an allergic reaction to food

It can involve the skin, the cardiovascular system, the respiratory tract as well as the gastrointestinal tract.

A person can have one or more of these symptoms:

  • Vomiting, stomach cramps
  • Shortness of breath
  • Gives, wheezing
  • Repetitive cough
  • Shock, circulatory collapse
  • Trouble with swallowing, tight or hoarse throat
  • Swelling tongue
  • Weak pulse
  • Pale or blue skin
  • Dizzy or feeling faint
  • Anaphylaxis that can send the body into shock. It is a life-threatening condition and can simultaneously affect various parts of the body like a stomachache together with a rash.

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Most of the symptoms appear around 2 hours after ingestion, but often they can also start within minutes. There are rare cases when it is delayed to 4-6 hours or even longer. This case is rather in people who have a rare type of food allergy like towards red meat. Delayed food allergy can also be triggered by food protein’s enterocolitis syndrome (FPIES). It is more severe and is caused mainly by milk, certain grains, and soy. It can lead to vomiting and the need for an emergency.

Allergy itself can show off differently, for example as an itchy mouth after eating raw or uncooked fruit or vegetable. This is an example of an oral allergy syndrome. It is a reaction to pollen not to the food itself. The cause of it is the immune system’s reaction to the pollen and alike proteins. It leads to the allergic response, and thus heating of the food is required to destroy the allergen. In this case, proper cooking food can be consumed without problems. People who are allergic to specific food in many cases are allergic also to food that is related like if a person is allergic to shrimps, he is more likely to be allergic also to lobsters and crabs.

In a case of any food allergy, an adult should visit a certified allergist. Further different tests are performed to determine to which particular foods a person has an allergy.

Treatment and management of food allergy

The primary way how to avoid food allergy, of course, is to eliminate the food that causes problems. This means that an adult will have to be careful anytime he will buy or consume any food. This also means a detailed reading of labels. Any allergen no matter how small amount of it is found in the food should be written down.

However, there are also many foods that say “may contain,” “made is hared facility,” “made on shared equipment” as there are no general rules and standards for that. To feel safer with consuming any foods that you aren’t sure of, the best way is to consult an allergist. It is important to know that labelling law doesn’t apply to all products. This includes shampoos, cosmetics, beauty aids and others. In many cases, some of them contain tree nut extracts and wheat proteins. There are numerous food experts, including nutritionists, who can help. They can help you to extract certain food from the diet but still receive all the nutrients needed.

There are also various cookbooks and special groups that deal with this issue. Sometimes allergies can also disappear, but in most of the cases, it is permanent. The fact is that over time, allergies towards foods like milk, eggs, wheat and soy might disappear but the ones towards fish, shellfish, tree nuts and peanuts tend to be lifelong. Additional carefulness should be drawn to eating out.

Waiters and the kitchen stuff might not always know the ingredients that are used to make some dish or food. Also, the sensitivity to some food plays a big role – there are cases when a person can get sick just from walking in a restaurant or any other eating place. An allergic person should have rights to ask for his food to be prepared the way that it hasn’t any contact with any allergens so that the dish would be fully safe. A lot of food allergy management depends on eating habits.

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Food allergy for adults is a challenging illness that needs appropriate measures. It is true that there are hundreds of foods and its components that can and are consumed. It isn’t that easy to determine even the particular food to what a particular person has an allergy. Avoiding an allergen is challenging, but the information and help can be found all around. A lot of attention should be drawn already since early childhood that can help to escape food allergy during adulthood. Modern medicine and different approaches in most of the cases can only diminish the consequences.


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Chen is a Functional Nutrition expert consultant, leading authority on weight management, women’s health and gluten sensitivity. She is a clinician, public speaker, educator and Amazon Best Seller author of “What If Gluten Free Is Not Enough – The Balanced Diet”.

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