What is Food Allergy? Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

Food allergy is an immune system reaction that occurs soon after eating a certain food. Even a tiny amount of the allergy-causing food can trigger signs and symptoms such as digestive problems, hives or swollen airways. In some people, a food allergy can cause severe symptoms or even a life-threatening reaction is known as anaphylaxis.

Food allergy affects an estimated 6 to 8 percent of children under age 3 and up to 3 percent of adults. While there’s no cure, some children outgrow their food allergy as they get older.

It’s easy to confuse a food allergy with a much more common reaction known as food intolerance. While bothersome, food intolerance is a less serious condition that does not involve the immune system.

Symptoms of food allergy and intolerance

It can be difficult to tell the difference between the symptoms of food allergy and food intolerance. Usually, symptoms caused by food allergy develop very soon after consuming the food. While symptoms caused by food intolerance can be immediate, they may also take 12 to 24 hours to develop.

Food intolerance reactions are usually related to the amount of food consumed. They may not occur until a certain amount (threshold level) of the food is eaten, but this amount varies for each person.

The symptoms of food allergy and intolerance can also be caused by other conditions, so it is important to see your doctor for a medical diagnosis.

Symptoms of food intolerance

Symptoms of food intolerance can include:

  •    nervousness
  •    tremor
  •    sweating
  •    diarrhea
  •    burning sensations on the skin
  •    breathing problems – asthma-like symptoms
  •    tightness across the face and chest
  •    palpitations
  •    rapid breathing
  •    headache, migraine
  •    allergy-like reactions.

What are the Causes of Food Allergies?

The main cause of food allergy is still unknown. Both heredity and environmental factors may play an important role in the development of food allergy. These allergens in the food are basically those that carry out an allergic reaction.

Foods responsible for an allergic reaction in children are:

  •     eggs
  •     milk
  •     soya
  •     wheat
  •     peanuts

Foods responsible for an allergic reaction in adults are:

  •     peanuts
  •     tree nuts
  •     fish
  •     shellfish

However, it’s known that any type of food may cause food allergy. These allergic reactions have been reported in association with:

  •     celery
  •     gluten
  •     mustard
  •     sesame seeds
  •     fruit and vegetables
  •     pine nuts
  •     meat

Why the rise in food allergy?

We currently do not have clear information as to why food allergy seems to have increased so rapidly in recent years, particularly in young children. This area requires additional research studies, several of which are already underway.

Proposed explanations (which have not yet been proven in studies) include:

Hygiene hypothesis, which proposes that less exposure to infections in early childhood, is associated with an increased risk of allergy. A more recent version of the hygiene hypothesis proposes that the make-up and type of the micro-organisms to which the mother, baby, and the infant is exposed and colonized may alter allergic risk.

  •     Delayed introduction of allergenic foods such as egg, peanut or tree nuts.
  •     Methods of food processing, such as roasted versus boiled peanuts.
  •     Development of allergy to food by skin exposure such as the use of unrefined nut oil-based moisturizers.

When to See a Doctor

Refer to a doctor or allergist whenever you experience food allergy symptoms shortly after eating. If possible, see your doctor when the allergic reaction is ongoing. This will enable the doctor to make a more prompt and accurate diagnosis.

Emergency treatment is warranted if you experience the following symptoms associated with anaphylaxis:

  •     Constriction of airways leading to trouble breathing
  •     Shock with a sharp decrease in blood pressure
  •     Rapid pulse rate
  •     Dizziness or light-headedness

Food allergies are a cause for concern, and you must take the necessary steps to prevent reactions and treat them when they occur. To help treat mild allergy symptoms and even cure your sensitivities, there are many natural options.

Tips and Remedies to Get Relief from Food Allergies at Home

Here are 7 home remedies that are useful in combating food allergies.

1. Eat More Probiotic Foods

To ease symptoms such as stomach pain and diarrhea, eat more probiotic foods. They contain a high number of “good” bacteria (lactobacilli) that help restore the natural balance of your gut bacteria and thereby alleviate digestive problems. Such foods also boost your immune system.

  •  When it comes to probiotic foods, the best option is yogurt with “live” or “active” cultures. Try to eat 2 to 3 cups of plain, unsweetened yogurt daily.
  •  Other good probiotic foods are kefir, sauerkraut, miso, kimchi, and tempeh. Include two or three probiotic foods in your diet for 1 to 2 weeks.

2. Add Ginger to Your Diet

Due to its anti-bacterial,  anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties ginger stand out to be an excellent home remedy to treat various problems like diarrhea, indigestion, nausea, dizziness, cough, wheezing and vomiting. Consume 3-4 cups of ginger tea daily to get rid of the allergy.

3. Sip on a Green Tea

It contains antioxidants, anti-inflammatory and antihistamine properties that help in curing stomach symptoms related to food allergies. Drink 2-3 cups of green tea every day for 1 to 2 weeks.

4. Castor Oil

It eases the gastrointestinal discomforts related to food allergy. Mix 1/2 tsp of castor oil in a glass of water every morning on an empty stomach.

5. Coconut Milk

It acts as one of the perfect alternatives for cow’s milk. Found in mature coconuts. It’s free from lactose so acts as the best remedy.

6. Consume Foods Rich in Vitamin C

Foods rich with vitamin C provide antioxidant and immune-boosting benefits. This vitamin also prevents the formation of histamine in response to a food allergen and aids in the removal of toxins from the body.

Include more fruits and vegetables rich in vitamin C in your diet. Some good sources of vitamin C are lemons, oranges, broccoli, grapefruit, kiwi, bell peppers, strawberries, sprouts, and tomatoes. However, make sure that you are not allergic to any of them.

You can also take vitamin C supplements daily but only after running it by your doctor.

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Written by Nav Gosal

Hi, I'm Nav. For the past few years, I have been an avid learner in the field of eczema and its care. My knowledge in the area developed as a result of my son's eczema condition. Despite being born as a healthy boy, he was affected with the skin condition when he was merely 6 months old. I adopted several measures, precautions, allergy free dietary habits and treatment plans to help manage my son's eczema symptoms. My struggle alongside my son, resulted in the development of my blog website Eczema Living. the website provides an insight to my experience and proven solutions for eczema care.

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