A food allergy is
caused by an inappropriate immune system response to a specific food or
substance in a food. Your immune system mistakes a food for a harmful
substance, and creates immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies to fight it. Then, the
next time you eat that food—even the tiniest bit of it—the IgE antibodies sense
it and cause your immune system to release chemicals to fight it off. These
chemicals cause the symptoms of an allergic reaction.
According to the U.S.
Food and Drug Administration (FDA), eight kinds of food cause 90 percent of
food allergies. Luckily, the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act
of 2004, which took effect January 1, 2006, requires food manufacturers to
disclose in plain language whether packaged products contain any of these eight
types of food (or proteins that came from these foods):
- tree nuts
requirement does not apply to meat, poultry, and egg products, which are
regulated by the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety
and Inspection Service (USDA).
Certain factors put
you at greater risk for having a food allergy.
According to the Mayo
Clinic, food allergies are most common in toddlers and infants. Allergies
to milk, soy, wheat, and eggs may decrease in impact over time. Allergies to
nuts and shellfish are more likely to last a lifetime.
If asthma, eczema,
hives, or hay fever is part of your family’s background, you are more likely to
have a food allergy.
If you're already
allergic to one food or already have another type of allergy, you have a
greater risk of developing a food allergy.
Asthma and Eczema
Asthma and food allergies often coexist.
Asthma can also make food allergy symptoms more severe.
A Past Food Allergy
Although a food
allergy that develops during childhood may mitigate as you grow older, there is
still a chance the allergy may return later in life.
Milk allergies are
much more common among children than adults; they are especially common among
very young children. According to the Food Allergy &
Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN), milk allergy is the most common childhood food
allergy, affecting two-and-a-half percent of children under the age of three..
Two types of
protein in milk can cause an allergic reaction: casein and whey, with whey
being the culprit in the majority of cases.
As with milk, egg
allergies are much more common among children than adults. According to FAAN, at least one-and-a-half
percent of children have this allergy. A number of proteins in both the yolks
and whites of eggs can cause allergies. However, according to the Mayo
Clinic, allergies to egg whites are more common than allergies to egg yolks.
It is important to note that those with severe egg allergies should talk to
their doctor before receiving a flu shot, as eggs are used to create the
are more common in children than in adults. About one-and-two-tenths percent of
children are allergic to peanuts.
Peanuts are the
cause of the most severe food allergy attacks. Therefore, it is essential to
get your child checked for a peanut allergy even after the mildest of reactions
to peanuts or peanut butter. Even if your child has only had minor reactions,
there is a serious risk for severe attacks in the future.
Many food products
that don’t contain peanuts are processed in plants with peanuts, and may have
some peanut proteins in them. Make sure to read food labels carefully if you or
your child has a peanut allergy.
Four classes of wheat
proteins can cause allergic reactions: albumin, globulin, gliadin and gluten.
Wheat proteins, especially gluten, are used in many types of food, including:
Some people have an
exercise-related allergy to wheat. These individuals have severe symptoms that
only appear if they exercise within a few hours after eating wheat. According
to the Mayo
Clinic, some individuals with this type also experience these symptoms if
they take aspirin or diclofenac (Cataflam, Voltaren). Unfortunately,
these people often experience anaphylaxis if their symptoms are triggered.
Celiac disease is
sometimes incorrectly called a gluten allergy, when it is really a digestive
disorder. An individual can have both a wheat allergy and celiac disease,
occurs when a person has difficulty breathing after inhaling wheat or other
types of flours. However, these individuals can often eat cooked wheat products
without a problem.
Soy allergies are
also more common among children than adults. According to the Food Allergy Initiative
(FAI), most children will react less intensely to soy by the time they are three.
Most of the time, allergic reactions to soy are mild.
Because soy is used
in many products where its use may not be obvious, it is important to read all
food labels if you have a soy allergy. When reading labels, look for the
following words: soy, soya, soybeans, glycine max, and edamame.
Although a person
with a fish allergy may be allergic to only one species of fish, it is
generally recommended that he or she avoid all fish to be on the safe side.
Unlike many other food allergies, fish allergies tend to last a person’s whole
life. This is one of the most common food allergies in adults.
Fish is often used
in food products where it may not be expected, so always read food labels if
you have a fish allergy.
All sorts of
shellfish can cause allergic reactions: crustaceans (e.g., crabs, lobster,
shrimp, prawns),and mollusks (e.g., clams, mussels, oysters, squid, and octopus).
Some people are only allergic to one kind of shellfish; others must avoid all
types. Shellfish allergies are more common among adults than children.
According to the American
College of Asthma, Allergy, & Immunology (ACAAI), along with peanuts
and tree nuts, shellfish allergies are more likely to cause anaphylaxis
Tree nuts that may cause
an allergic reaction include almonds, pecans, cashews, pistachios and walnuts. As
with shellfish, some people are allergic to only one type of nut, while others
have reactions to all.
According to ACAAI,
tree nuts, along with peanuts and shellfish, are more likely to cause