News and information about food allergies from around the world
What is a Food Allergy?
A food allergy is an adverse immune response to a food protein. They are distinct from other adverse responses to food, such as food intolerance, pharmacological reactions, and toxin-mediated reactions.
The protein in the food is the most common allergic component. These kinds of allergies occur when the body’s immune system mistakenly identifies a protein as harmful. Some proteins or fragments of proteins are resistant to digestion and those that are not broken down in the digestive process are tagged by the Immunoglobulin E (IgE). These tags fool the immune system into thinking that the protein is harmful. The immune system, thinking the organism (the individual) is under attack, triggers an allergic reaction. These reactions can range from mild to severe. Allergic responses include dermatitis, gastrointestinal and respiratory distress, including such life-threatening anaphylactic responses as biphasic anaphylaxis and vasodilation; these require immediate emergency intervention.
Individuals with protein allergies commonly avoid contact with the problematic protein. Some medications may prevent, minimize or treat protein allergy reactions.
Treatment consists of either immunotherapy (desensitisation) or avoidance, in which the allergic person avoids all forms of contact with the food to which they are allergic. Areas of research include anti-IgE antibody (omalizumab, or Xolair) and specific oral tolerance induction (SOTI), which have shown some promise for treatment of certain food allergies. People diagnosed with a food allergy may carry an injectable form of epinephrine such as an EpiPen, or wear some form of medical alert jewelry, or develop an emergency action plan, in accordance with their doctor.
The scope of problem, particularly for young people, is a significant public health issue.
Signs and symptoms
Classic immunoglobulin-E (IgE)-mediated food allergies are classified as type-I immediate Hypersensitivity reaction. These allergic reactions have an acute onset (from seconds to one hour) and may include:
Itching of mouth, lips, tongue, throat, eyes, skin, or else areas
Swelling (angioedema) of lips, tongue, eyelids, or the whole face
Runny or congested nose]
Wheezing and/or shortness of breath
Abdominal pain and/or stomach cramps
Symptoms of allergies vary from person to person. The amount of food needed to trigger a reaction also varies from person to person.
Serious danger regarding allergies can begin when the respiratory tract or blood circulation is affected. The latter can be indicated through wheezing and cyanosis. Poor blood circulation leads to a weak pulse, pale skin, and fainting.
A severe case of an allergic reaction, caused by symptoms affecting the respiratory tract and blood circulation, is called anaphylaxis. When symptoms are shown where breathing is impaired and circulation is affected, the person is said to be inanaphylactic shock. Anaphylaxis occurs when IgE Antibodies are involved, and areas of the body that are not in direct contact with the food become affected and show symptoms. This occurs because no nutrients are circulated throughout the body, causing the widening of blood vessels. This vasodilation causes blood pressure to decrease, which leads to the loss of consciousness. Those with asthma or an allergy to peanuts, tree nuts, or seafood are at greater risk for anaphylaxis.
One of the most common food allergies is a sensitivity to peanuts, a member of the bean family. Peanut allergies may be severe, but children with peanut allergies sometimes outgrow them. Tree nuts, including pecans, pistachios, pine nuts, and walnuts, are also common allergens. Sufferers may be sensitive to one particular tree nut or to many different tree nuts. Also seeds, including sesame seeds and poppy seeds, contain oils where protein is present, which may elicit an allergic reaction.
Egg allergies affect about one in fifty children but are frequently outgrown by children when they reach age five. Typically the sensitivity is to proteins in the white, rather than the yolk.
Milk, from cows, goats or sheep, is another common food allergen, and many sufferers are also unable to tolerate dairy products such as cheese. A very small portion of children with a milk allergy, roughly ten per cent, will have a reaction to beef. Beef contains a small amount of protein that is present in cow’s milk.
Other foods containing allergenic proteins include soy, wheat, fish, shellfish, fruits, vegetables, spices, synthetic and natural colours, and chemical additives.
Although sensitivity levels vary by country, the most common food allergies are allergies to milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, seafood, shellfish, soy and wheat. These are often referred to as “the big eight.” Allergies to seeds — especially sesame — seem to be increasing in many countries. An example of allergies more common to a particular region is the surplus rice allergies in East Asia where rice forms a large part of the diet.
Some children who are allergic to cow’s milk protein also show a cross sensitivity to soy-based products. There are infant formulas in which the milk and soy proteins are degraded so when taken by an infant, their immune system does not recognize the allergen and they can safely consume the product. Hypoallergenic infant formulas can be based on hydrolyzed proteins, which are proteins partially pre-digested in a less antigenic form. Other formulas, based on free amino acids, are the least antigenic and provide complete nutrition support in severe forms of milk allergy.
People with latex allergy often also develop allergies to bananas, kiwi, avocados, and some other foods.
Food Allergies with Bill & Sheila
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