Understanding Common Food Allergies

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Understanding common food allergies: Unfortunately, food allergies have become part of our daily life, in one form or other. Many people still struggle distinguishing between an actual food allergy and a food sensitivity. Allergy is a reaction of our immune system, when it mistakes certain food for an invasive matter. Therefore, instead of using the food as an nourishment, our body launches an attack. This attack can lead to a wide range of symptoms from mildly unpleasant to potentially fatal ones. In its most severe form, food allergy can cause a life-threatening anaphylaxis. On the other hand, food sensitivity does not involve our immune system, it’s rather a bodily reaction of other organ(s). Recent research found a link between food allergies and hyperactive immune system at birth. Also, several new studies now suggest how to prevent food allergies in children.

Which food allergies are the most common these days?

1. Peanut allergy: Peanuts are among the foods most likely to cause anaphylaxis and peanut allergies are on the rise. According to the Food Allergy Research and Education study, peanut allergies more than tripled in the U.S. between 1997 and 2008. New research suggests that feeding infants peanuts may prevent peanut allergy.

2. Tree nut allergy: Tree nuts include almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, pistachios, Brazil nuts and cashews. Similarly to peanut allergy, tree nut allergies could cause severe reactions and usually last a lifetime. If you suffer from a severe tree nut allergy, you should also avoid the following foods: Gianduja (chocolate with hazelnut paste as an ingredient), litchi, marzipan, pesto. New research suggests that eating raw nuts can prevent triggering a nut allergy.

3. Milk allergy: Cow’s milk is the most common allergy in infants and young kids. About 2.5 % of children younger than 3 are allergic to milk. Be aware, that many with cow’s milk allergy can also react to goat and sheep milk. While mild allergic reaction tends to take the form of hives, the severe reaction can cause anaphylaxis. Also, watch out for these milk-containing ingredients: casein, caseinates, curd, diacetyl, ghee, lactalbumin, lactoferrin, lactose, lactulose, recaldent, rennet casein, tagatose and whey.

4. Egg allergy: Egg allergies are also mainly common in kids. However, most children outgrow their egg allergy by age 5. Those who are sensitive react to the proteins in the white of the egg. People with chicken egg allergies should also avoid eggs from ducks, geese, turkeys and other birds, because they may contain some of the same allergenic proteins. Symptoms of an egg allergy range from mild skin reactions to severe anaphylaxis.

5. Soy allergy: Another common food allergen, especially in infants and children. About 0.4 % of children have a soy allergy. Some kids outgrow it by age 3 and the majority outgrow it by age 10. Look out for the following foods: Edamame, Miso, Natto, Shoyu, Soya, Tamari, Tempeh and textured vegetable protein (TVP).

6. Fish and shellfish allergy: Fish and shellfish allergies often last a lifetime, similarly to peanut allergy. Seafood allergy is one of the top food allergies among adults. It results in more emergency visits among people age 6 and older than any other food allergy since it can cause severe anaphylactic reaction.

7. Wheat allergy: Wheat allergy is most common among kids, who usually outgrow it by age 3. It should not be confused with celiac disease or gluten intolerance, which is a sensitivity to gluten found in wheat. Wheat allergy is a reaction to the proteins in wheat mediated by the immune system when IgE antibodies are secreted within minutes to hours after a person eats a wheat-containing food. Symptoms of a wheat allergy can range from mild hives, rash, digestion problems, itching and swelling to severe, life-threatening anaphylactic reactions that involve wheezing, trouble breathing and loss of consciousness. The following foods and ingredients also contain wheat: bulgur, couscous, cracker meal, durum, einkorn, emmer, farina, kamut, matzoh, seitan, semolina, spelt and triticale.

8. Corn allergy: Corn allergy is still under recognized  because it can be very difficult to diagnose. Corn allergy may cause symptoms such as hives, rash, runny nose, nausea, vomiting, cramps, diarrhea, headaches, sneezing and asthma. Some people also experience severe anaphylactic reactions to corn and corn products, including the cornstarch used on surgical gloves. If you are severely allergic to corn, you should avoid both raw and cooked corn and carry an EpiPen in case of a reaction.

If you or your child are diagnosed with any kind of food allergy, it’s crucial to read all labels (and not just foods but anything that comes on the skin as well) and watch for certain ingredients that could contain the particular allergen.

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