Although it may seem that nearly everyone is allergic to certain foods,true food allergies are rare. Roughly five to eight per cent children and one to two per cent adults suffer from food allergies. One of the reasons for this could be that people often confuse between food allergy and food intolerance.
A true food allergy is an abnormal reaction of the bodys immune system to a food ingredient (mostly proteins) that is otherwise harmless.
Food intolerance or food sensitivity is a non-immunological reaction to food or food additives. These originate in the gastrointestinal system and involve an inability to digest or absorb certain substances. Lactose intolerance and sulphite-induced asthma are some of the most common examples of food intolerance.
Symptoms of proven food intolerance vary and may be usually mistaken for those of food allergy. Food sensitivities are rarely life threatening and the symptoms tend to be localised.
Symptoms of food allergy are not uniform and may vary from person to person. They can range from mild (such as an itchy mouth,itchy tongue,swelling or itchy rash) to severe (shock or cardiac arrest). Others include migraine headache,muscle aches,pain,nausea,cramps,vomiting,diarrhoea,sneezing,coughing,shortness of breath or wheezing.
The most severe reaction is called an aphylaxis. This infrequent,yet potentially fatal,response to an allergen involves several body systems and results in a collection of symptoms instead of the usual one or two seen with typical food allergy. Difficulty in breathing,throat constriction,decreased blood pressure and unconsciousness may occur almost simultaneously. Although they are rare,an aphylactic reactions most often occur when the allergic individual is eating away from home and inadvertently consumes food he/she is allergic to.
Food allergy may appear at any age,but true allergic reactions to foods are most common in infants and young children. Allergens usually provoke the same symptoms each time,but many factors affect intensity,including quantity of the offending food consumed,and how it was prepared.
Not all allergens are readily identified. It may be necessary to keep a carefully documented food diary of the time and content of all the meals and the appearance and timing of subsequent symptoms. After a week or two,a pattern may emerge. If so,eliminate the suspected food from the diet for at least a week,and then try it again. If symptoms develop,chances are that the offending food has been identified.
HIDDEN SOURCES OF COMMON ALLERGENS
* Milk and milk products Baked dishes and desserts
* Eggs Confectionary,toppings on certain desserts.
* Soy products Soy sauce,processed foods
* Wheatproducts Breads,bakery,thickeners,soups
* Peanuts Candies,commercial preparations,oriental cuisine
* Tree nuts Cereal crackers,ice creams,candies,chocolates
* Fish Stews,salad dressings,oriental cuisine
* Shell fish Salad dressings,oriental cuisine