An allergy can be described as a malfunction of the immune system, an exaggerated response to certain substances. Your body mistakenly believes that something it has touched, smelled or eaten is harmful to it and your body releases massive amounts of chemicals, such as histamine to protect itself.
It is believed that 11 million Americans suffer from food allergies. These allergies are as varied as food itself is. Some people suffer from an allergy to one food, some to many. The most common food allergies are generally eggs, milk, peanuts, tree nuts (such as walnuts), fish, shellfish, soy and wheat.
Symptoms of food allergies are varied and range from a tingling of the mouth to swelling of the tongue and throat to difficulty breathing to hives, cramps, diarrhea, vomiting and in some instances death.
There are ways to help you or your loved one manage your food allergies. First seek the help of an allergist. Your allergist will perform a patch test to determine the exact cause of allergic reactions. This will be the guideline you use as you develop a diet based around your food allergies.
As with other types of allergies there is no cure for a food allergy. Some children do grow out of some food allergies as they age although allergies to peanuts, fish, shellfish and nuts are often considered lifetime allergies. You or your loved one must simply avoid the food that causes the allergy. This can be difficult, especially when eating out in a restaurant. Depending on the severity of allergy, even slight cross contamination of food products can cause reactions.
Food labeling is a very important component of avoiding foods that trigger allergies. Since 2000 the FDA has been presenting information on allergy risks and labeling requirements to manufacturers. They seek to have manufacturers change some labels to be easier to read, using plain language like “milk” on a label instead of “caseinate”.
In the case of a milk or egg allergy there are alternatives that can be used when cooking or baking. There are many online sites dedicated to supplying information, education and support to those with food allergies.