Did you know that you might have food allergies and not even be aware of it, or that an allergy can develop at any time in your life? Something you used to enjoy in your youth may one day cause an allergic reaction, and get added to your restricted list. A food allergy can range from a mild stomach-ache to life-threatening anaphylaxis, so paying attention to them is vital to your health.
Researchers estimate that some 32 million Americans have food allergies to over 170 different foods. About 5.6 million of these food allergy sufferers are children under age 18. Furthermore, the prevalence of food allergies in babies and children increased by 50 percent since the turn of the century, and the number of kids allergic to peanuts or tree nuts has more than tripled.
As allergists and health practitioners seek to diagnose and treat food allergies, you may be wondering if you, or anyone in your family, has them. If you have a newborn, you won’t know if they have food allergies typically until you begin introducing solid food.
At Balanced Care, we see cases of food allergies and sensitivities in our practice every week. We can help you understand how to test for food allergies with a restricted and re-introduction diet and food log, and we can help you with dietary changes to eliminate foods that produce a response.
If you’re trying to determine whether you are allergic to any foods, read on for some tips about what to look for and what you can do.
How Do I Know if I Have a Food Allergy?
Food allergy symptoms can be mild at first and then worsen over time. Surprisingly, many people have food allergies without knowing it. They attribute their symptoms to feeling tired, or perhaps getting sick, or indigestion.
Sometimes people assume this is the way they are supposed to feel, not knowing that they are not at their best since their body is fighting against the food you eat.
Symptoms of food allergies include:
- Itching or tingling on the tongue, lips, or roof of the mouth
- Skin itching, hives, bumpy red rash, or eczema
- Trouble swallowing
- Swelling of the face, lips, tongue, throat or elsewhere on the body
- Wheezing or trouble breathing.
- Nasal congestion
- Abdominal pain, diarrhea, or constipation
- Nausea or vomiting
- Feeling lightheaded, dizzy, or fainting
- In severe cases, throat closure, turning blue, and inability to breathe
These symptoms usually occur relatively quickly after eating a food you are allergic to, but might not happen until after you’ve finished eating, or even a few hours later in some cases.
What Are The Most Common Foods People Are Allergic To?
Although there have been some 170 foods that trigger allergies in people, most food allergies are to eight food groups. These include:
- Milk (Dairy)
- Tree nuts (e.g., walnuts, almonds)
- Shellfish or crustaceans
Between 80 and 90 percent of food allergies are attributed to these eight foods, and as much as 40 percent of children who have food allergies are allergic to more than one of these foods.
Many children who have allergies to milk, wheat, egg, and soy outgrow these allergies and can eat those foods later in life, often by the time they go to elementary school. Peanut, tree nut and fish allergies are usually lifelong.
But just because you didn’t have a food allergy when you were younger doesn’t mean you won’t get one later in life. Any allergy is fair game to develop at any time.
How Are Food Allergies Diagnosed?
Your doctor will listen to your history and look at your symptoms. You will need to pay attention to what foods you ate, how much of them you ate, what symptoms you had, whether you have the symptoms every time you eat, and whether it happens when you eat other foods. You will likely also have to report about your home and work environment, family history, and diet in general.
Sometimes, the allergy isn’t to the food itself, but to pollen or ragweed that is on the food. You often see this with apples, melons, tomatoes, and other fruits and vegetables. You may be able to eat these foods if they are peeled or cooked, but not raw, depending on the severity of your symptoms.
How to Test for Food Allergies
If you go to an allergist, they will give you a skin test to determine if you react to a variety of common allergens. In a skin test, the doctor lightly pricks the skin with a small needle and inserts a tiny drop of the test food in liquid form. After about 20 minutes, if you are allergic to the food, a little, raised, red bump, similar to a mosquito bite, will appear.
The foods or other common allergens, such as mold, pollen, or pet dander that do not react by swelling and reddening are ones in which you are not allergic. While this test is reasonably accurate, it will not always show a true allergy unless you have reacted to the particular food previously. Still, it’s a strong indication.
Another way to test for food allergies is to use an elimination diet. If you and your doctor suspect certain foods are the culprits, then you will be asked not to eat them for two weeks. You’ll also need to keep a food diary during this time. Your doctor will ask if your symptoms improve when you are not eating the foods.
Then, one at a time, very slowly, and under your doctor’s care, you will introduce food in which you suspect you are allergic. If you immediately have symptoms, after detoxing from it and feeling better, it is relatively safe to say that you have a food allergy or sensitivity to it.
Let Balanced Care Help
The doctors at Balanced Care have helped many people in the Twin Cities area with their food allergies and sensitivities. Many people feel better overall once they have eliminated certain foods from their diets.
Food allergies and even milder food sensitivities can keep you from living your best life and feeling great. Contact the medical professionals at Balanced Care today to schedule a food allergy consultation and nutritional analysis. You could be needlessly suffering and poisoning yourself with foods that your body resists.