Food Allergies: General Info

A food allergy is a hypersensitivity to a particular form of nutriment, caused by a physical disorder in which the body mistakenly considers the substance to be a threat. A food that sets off such a reaction in an individual is known as an allergen. When an allergen is perceived by the body, its system releases a rush of chemicals, in particular histamine, in order to act as a countermeasure to the perceived danger. These ordinarily helpful chemicals may cause a variety of effects upon the body when discharged in excess, ranging from mild respiratory problems to, rarely, anaphylactic shock and death.

Causes of food allergies

In theory, any edible substance may act as an allergen, but 90% of food allergies are caused by milk, eggs, nuts (especially peanuts), fish, shellfish, soy, and wheat. The most common reactions to a food allergy are bowel problems, shortness of breath, inflammation of the skin (hives), or cramps.

Symptoms of food allergies?

In extreme cases, the individual may lose consciousness or develop anaphylaxis, a life-threatening condition in which the flow of oxygen to the lungs is obstructed by swelling. This condition is caused by allergies to nuts, dairy products, and seafood, but is not common. Food allergies tend to occur disproportionately in children, while approximately 4 percent of the adult population of the United States suffers from an allergy to some food product. Commonly confused with food allergies are such conditions as lactose intolerance, celiac disease, and irritable bowel syndrome; these disorders may be linked to the ingestion of food products, but are not specifically caused by hypersensitivity.

For more information the symptons of food allergies see the following article from TheDietChannel: Guide to Food Allergy Symptoms.

Is there treatment for food allergies?

The most efficient treatment for a severe allergic reaction is an injection of adrenaline. Because of the unfeasibility of self-medicating in this manner, food allergies are best treated by an exclusionary diet in which known allergens are scrupulously avoided. An individual can diagnose his or her susceptibility to certain known allergens by means of a skin test, in which a small portion of the body is exposed to the substance in question and the results are monitored by a physician.

For more information on whether you may have an undiagnosed food allergy see the following article from TheDietChannel: Food Allergies; Could You Have Undiagnosed Food Allergies?