Food allergies are scientifically explained as a dangerous reaction of the immune system after a certain food is eaten. It is usually caused because the IgE antibody of the immune system cannot recognize the protein of that food and considers it as a foreign body that needs to be eliminated which leads to food allergy reactions. People often confuse food intolerance with a food allergy, the major difference between these two is that when it is intolerance it generally affects the digestive system but when it is allergy the outcome can be very serious and can often be life-threatening. The symptoms of allergy can either be seen immediately or after 4-6 hours of consuming that food. A person can have food allergy either by birth or can develop it over time.
Following are a few symptoms of food allergy:
- Anaphylaxis: This is the most severe outcome of a food allergy. It affects the organs in such a way that it impairs breathing, causes a sudden drop in blood pressure and can even affect the heart rate.
- Vomiting, stomach cramps, wheezing, trouble swallowing, dizziness, weak pulse and blue or pale skin.
Some of the common food allergies are:
- Milk: Milk allergy is one of the most common food allergies. It is different from lactose intolerance as lactose intolerance is when the body cannot process the milk sugar lactose and usually results in diarrhoea, while in case of milk allergy the milk protein whey and casein are the culprit and can often lead to wheezing, asthma and diarrhoea. In the case of milk allergy, milk and all the milk products should be avoided such as ghee, butter, cheese, cottage cheese, custard, buttermilk, yoghurt and even powdered skim milk. In case of allergy, one should take care of the hidden sources of milk such as in cakes, bakery products, chewing gum, chocolate, coffee creamer, margarine etc.
- Egg: It is the second most common food allergy after eggs. Most people react to egg whites but in the case of egg allergy, it is best advised to avoid both white and yellow. The allergy usually reacts into skin hives, runny nose, cramps, nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath and in extreme cases anaphylaxis. Usually, very young children tend to show allergic signs to the egg but eventually with age they grow out of it, in case of persistent allergic reaction over years, it is best to avoid it. If any of the food labels state albumin/ globulin/ lecithin/ lysozyme/ ovalbumin/ ovvitilin as an ingredient, a person with egg allergy should avoid that food. Some common egg-containing foods are salad dressings, custard, pudding, ice cream, lollipops, mayonnaise, souffles etc.
- Peanut and other nut allergies: Nut allergy is very common and there are chances that if a person is allergic to say peanut, he/ she might be allergic to other nuts as well such as almonds, walnuts, chestnuts, brazil nuts etc. Allergy usually results in skin inflammation and digestive issues. In case you have any of the nut allergies, it is best to avoid all the hidden sources of nuts, it is advised to read the label very carefully particularly of sauces and gravies and should not consume foods such as nut butter, and check the ingredients of cookies, candy, cereals and granola, energy bars, grain breads, ice creams etc.
- Soy allergy: Another very common food allergy is soy allergy. In case you have this allergy skipping tofu and soy sauce is a must but there are some other soy foods as well such as edamame, miso, natto, soy protein supplement, a textured vegetable protein which needs to be avoided. Some common soy-containing foods are baked goods, canned broths and canned tuna, infant formula, protein bars, low-fat peanut butter, Worcestershire sauce etc. If the label reads the presence of glycine max/ monosodium glutamate/ mono-diglyceride/ hydrolyzed vegetable protein on should avoid that product.
- Gluten allergy: Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and their products and often results in eczema. In case of wheat allergy, one should avoid gluten-related products such as bread crumbs, couscous, durum or pasta, farro, kannut, semolina, sprouted wheat and all sorts of wheat flour.
- Other Food allergens: Other common food allergens are Fish, shellfish, corn, gelatin, seeds such as pumpkin and sunflower meat and spices. All these allergens are generally lifelong and may not be cured. So one must always be careful about reading food labels and the reactions in case of consuming them.
In case of allergic reactions, one should visit the doctor immediately and try to get the allergen out of the system.