FOOD, FACTS and FADS

Exploring the sense and nonsense of food and health

Do You Have a Food Allergy?

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Food allergies are a hot topic these days.  It seems that people use the term to refer to almost any problem they have with food.  Food allergies are real and can be very serious.  They can cause mild symptoms such as rashes, or digestive problems to life-threatening situations such as anaphylaxis.  They can also lead people to avoid nutritious foods unnecessarily. Adverse reactions to foods can be due to food poisoning, food allergies and food intolerances.  Food allergies involve the body’s immune system reacting to almost always some kind of protein it recognizes as harmful.  The immune system is not involved in food intolerances.

FOOD ALLERGIES With food allergies, the immune system reacts to food as if it was a bacteria or virus (foreign intruder) but in this case, they are called food allergens.  Food allergens cause the immune system to form antibodies which attach themselves to certain areas of the body (nose, throat, lungs, skin, eyes).  When the invader reappears, the body is ready with its previously formed antibodies to secrete histamine and other substances that cause the physical signs of an allergic reaction (rash, diarrhea, congestion, wheezing) or more serious reactions. The three most common symptoms caused by food allergies are:

Skin eruptions, rash, hives – 84% Gastrointestinal upsets – 52% Respiratory problems – 32%

  • About 90% of all food allergies are caused by eight foods: nuts, eggs, wheat, milk, peanuts, soy, shellfish, and fish.

Tests for food allergies include:

  • Skin prick tests
  • The RAST Test (radioallergosorbent test) –
  • Bogus Tests – Mail order allergy tests, hair analysis, cytotoxic blood tests, iridology, and sublingual and food injection provocation tests.

None of these tests are always accurate, and the bogus tests should not be trusted at all. The incidence of true food allergies in adults is estimated to be about 2% and appears to be increasing.  One-third of Americans believe they are allergic to one or more foods.  About 60% of complaints about food allergy fail to be confirmed by testing.

FOOD INTOLERANCES Food intolerances produce some of the same reactions as food allergies, but do not involve the immune system.  Some are due to a missing enzyme.

FOODS AND SUBSTANCES IN THEM LINKED TO FOOD INTOLERANCES.

Aged cheese (tyramine),  Anchovies (histamine),  Beer (sulfites),  Catsup (histamine),  Chocolate,  Dried beans,  Food coloring ,Lactose (missing the lactase enzyme),  Mushrooms,  Pineapple,  Red wine (sulfites, histamine),  Sausage (hard, cured) (histamine),  Soy sauce (tyramine),  Spinach (histamine) Tomatoes,  Yeast

PRECAUTIONS

  • Educate yourself about food ingredients and read ingredient labels.
  • Ask questions at restaurants about how food is prepared.
  • If you have ever developed anaphylactic shock, carry a pre-loaded syringe of epinephrine (“epipen”)
  • Keep asthma inhalers and antihistamines readily available
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