What is Food Allergy? Allergies Symptoms and Treatment

A food allergy occurs when our immune system considers a protein in the food a threat to our body. It then overreacts and develops an allergic reaction.

A food allergy may develop even at the tiniest exposure to the food, hence early diagnosis and further care becomes extremely crucial.

The Occurrence of Food Allergies:

Food allergies have been prevailing in the west for quite some time now. However, there are a growing number of Asians, including Indians, who are falling prey to different types of food allergies.

It has also been observed that children seem to be more prone to food allergies than adults, may be because of improper breast feeding practices, no exposure to different foods, poor immunity etc. in India, approximately 20 percent of individuals are said to have at least one allergy and westernization is sure to be the major cause.

Allergies Around The Globe:

Allergies have been reported to vary according to different nations. Countries like the UK and USA are troubled with allergies of peanuts, fish, shell fish, eggs and dairy whereas others like Switzerland have individuals suffering from celery allergy.

Spain and Italy see a number of fruit allergies especially apple, peaches and melons, while Norway and Iceland are troubled with cod allergies.

Though India shares most of the allergies from US and UK, being a culturally diverse nation, allergies from wheat, cucumber, lady’s fingers and eggplant have also been commonly reported.

It is alarming to find that nearly three million people in India suffer from peanut allergy, can be as damaging as death.

What is Food Allergy

Food Allergy and Food Intolerance:

Food allergies are initiated only after an immune response where as there is no involvement of the immune system in food intolerance, as they majority occurs because of innate or acute deficiency or lack of specific enzymes.

Food intolerance hence does not show up in allergy testing and neither worsens in to a severe allergic reaction, known as anaphylaxis.

Food Allergy Symptoms:

These range from mild to severe, with the most severe being life-threatening anaphylaxis which involves the entire body, with a fatal drop in blood pressure, abnormal heart rate and breathing pattern.

Other symptoms may include blue skin, hives, dizziness, breathlessness, wheezing, repeated cough, inflamed throat and tongue, circulatory collapse etc.

These symptoms generally arise post two hours of food ingestion but may also occur within 20 minutes of consumption.

Diagnosis:

It is best to observe the type and quantity of food consumed that stimulated an allergic response, type of symptoms experienced after consumption of that food item, after how long did the symptoms begin appearing and for how long did these last.

A blood test will less accurately tell you the amount of immunoglobulin E (igE) produced in the blood for that specific food item.

Immunoglobulin E is an anti-body closely related to allergic reactions. It binds with the protein in the food item (allergen) and causes the mast cells to release histamine that generates allergic symptoms.

 A skin prick test is a more accurate test, where in, a liquid is applied on the arm or back and with the help of a sterile probe, a prick is made for the liquid to seep in. The results are reported within 20 minutes of the test.

An oral food challenger test done under strict medical supervision is the most accurate, where the food allergen in miniscule amounts is injected to check for an allergic reaction. There is further gradual increase in the dose of allergens to check for specific allergic reactions.

Treatment/Precautions:

• The first line of treatment would involve complete avoidance of the food.

• Consult a nutritionist to check for other options of the food which you are allergic to, so that you can consume that food to prevent deficiencies.

• Incorporate the practice of label checking to check for foods you are allergic to.

• Some products mention may contain on their food labels. Avoid these products as well.

• Be extra careful when eating out and request the chef to prepare a menu without that particular food item to which you are allergic to.

• For severe symptoms, medical practitioners give epinephrine injections to prevent the body from going in to a state of shock.

Conclusion:

Whether allergies are permanent is not yet established and may differ from person to person. However, some individuals may outgrow them with age. Adopting healthy dietary practices to build a stronger immune system is one of the keys to preventing food allergies.

SOURCE: B-Positive Health Magazine

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