Nutrition for Food Allergies
A food allergy is an exaggerated immune response to a particular food or a component of a food, most often a protein. The immune system triggers certain cells to produce immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies that are meant to fight the allergen; it also releases histamines and other chemicals into the bloodstream, causing the allergic reaction, with histamines being the primary cause of symptoms, including anaphylactic shock.
The foods most likely to cause allergic reactions are eggs, cow’s milk, shellfish, wheat, fish, tree nuts, soybeans and peanuts. Like other allergies, food allergies can be deadly if severe. The most dangerous allergic reactions to foods, according to the National Institutes of Health, are to nuts, both peanuts and tree nuts. Symptoms can include tingling or swelling of the mouth, hives or eczema, troubled breathing, gastrointestinal distress, and dizziness. Less serious food allergies can still cause fatigue, rashes, and other non-life-threatening symptoms.
Approximately two percent of adults and six percent of children have food allergies. Fortunately, however, those suffering from these allergies can maintain proper nutrition while learning to avoid the foods causing the problem.
Dealing with Food Allergies
Treatment of food allergies usually involves either eliminating the troublesome food completely, or using what is called a “rotation” diet. In a rotation diet other foods initially replace the problem one, but it is eventually added back to the diet in the hope that the sufferer will have built up a tolerance. Obviously, the re-introduction of a substance that is a known cause of allergic reaction must be handled with extreme care.
Natural therapies include the use of bromelain and other proteolytic digestive enzymes, but there is as yet no evidence that this is successful. For food allergies induced by exercise, triggered by the body’s increased temperature, avoidance of the food ends the problem. It is also important to strengthen and maintain the immune system with a healthy diet.
Some increased risk factors for developing food allergies are family history, if other allergies such as hay fever, asthma, or eczema are common in the family, and age—food allergies are much more common in children under four, since their digestive tract is not fully developed.
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