Common Foods That Can Trigger Severe Food Allergies
Around 10 percent of adults and eight percent of children in the United States have been diagnosed with severe food allergies. However, those numbers double when you take into account the people who have food sensitivities or intolerances. Food allergies and sensitivities are quite common, and their number is increasing every day.
This article is only about food allergies triggering a severe immune system response. It is not about food intolerances or food sensitivities.
What is a food allergy?
A food allergy triggers a cascade of responses from our immune system. This happens when our immune system mistakenly identifies certain proteins present in food to be harmful. As a result, our bodies take measures to protect us from these “harmful” chemicals. One of the most common measures is the release of histamine. Histamine, while helpful on the one hand, causes inflammation in our bodies.
When a person with food allergies is exposed to even the smallest amount of allergenic food, their body starts displaying symptoms. Symptoms of food allergies include difficulty breathing, swelling of the mouth, cheeks, and tongue, a sudden drop in blood pressure, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, rashes, and hives. In severe cases, the body responds to these allergenic foods by going into anaphylactic shock, which can be fatal.
Note that food allergies and food intolerances/sensitivities are not the same thing. Food intolerance does not affect your immune system.
Six foods that trigger the worst food allergies
Cow’s milk contains a protein that an allergic person’s body will mistake for a harmful chemical, thus triggering the body’s immunity response. This form of allergy was most common in children from infants to toddlers. In the past, doctors did not consider this a serious allergy in young children, as they thought most of them would outgrow it. However, today we see that this allergy can persist and often stays with them through adulthood.
The reaction to cow’s milk usually includes swelling, rashes, vomiting, and the development of hives. In the most severe cases, anaphylaxis can also occur. Those who are allergic to cow’s milk should avoid the liquid milk itself, milk in powder form, cheese, margarine, butter, yogurt, ice-cream, and all sorts of dairy creams. Mothers who have an allergic baby will have to remove the cow’s milk from their diet.
An egg allergy, after cow’s milk, is the second most common allergy in children. Studies show that many of these children will outgrow this allergy. However, many others will continue to have this allergy through adulthood. The most common symptoms of egg allergy include respiratory issues, skin rashes and hives, stomach aches, and anaphylaxis.
The protein that commonly triggers the allergy is found in egg whites. The treatment for an egg allergy, similar to the cow’s milk allergy, is to make sure that your diet is egg-free.
However, egg-related foods, such as biscuits and cakes, or foods with cooked eggs in them, are not as allergenic to some allergic people because cooking the egg destroys the protein that causes the allergies.
Tree nut allergies are common in the United States, affecting almost 1% of the population. Tree nuts include almonds, walnuts, pistachios, cashews, Macadamia nuts, Brazil nuts, and pine nuts. Peanuts are not tree nuts. They are legumes. However, peanut allergies are considered a world-wide concern, and their allergic symptoms are the same as tree nuts.
People with this allergy will be affected by any form of tree nut or peanut, even if they consume something made from their oils or butter. The only way to avoid this allergy is to abstain from nuts. Tree nut and peanut allergies are responsible for half of all anaphylaxis related deaths. That is why people who have this allergy are advised to keep carry an epi-pen, which can save their lives by injecting a shot of adrenaline into their bloodstream. The adrenaline battles and reverses the effects of the allergy, if taken immediately after exposure. Strict avoidance is necessary for tree nut and peanut allergies.
Wheat allergies are also very common in both children and adults, with symptoms including digestive trouble, vomiting, nausea, skin rashes, swelling, and possible anaphylactic shock. People often mistake wheat allergies for celiac disease or gluten sensitivity because they have similar symptoms. However, a wheat allergy causes an immune system response that can prove to be fatal. It is one of the worst foods for allergies and requires the allergic person to avoid wheat and all foods made with wheat proteins.
Soy allergies were thought to be more common in children, though that belief is changing. Foods like soybeans, soy milk, soybean oils, soy sauce, and for some people soy lecithin and tofu made from soybeans are the prime sources of soy that could be triggering an allergic reaction. The symptoms include itchiness all over the body, tingling in the mouth, runny nose, coughing, difficulty breathing, asthma, and anaphylaxis.
Finned Fish and Shellfish
Researchers define seafood as either “finned fish” or “shellfish”. Around three percent of adults are affected by seafood allergies. They are two exclusive allergies, as finned fish and shellfish don’t carry the same kind of allergenic protein. That is why someone could be allergic to one and yet might not be allergic to the other. Finned fish and shellfish allergies primarily develop in adulthood, and both can be fatal.
The symptoms of all seafood allergies are similar: stomach pain, diarrhea, vomiting, swelling of the lips and tongue, and anaphylaxis.
As you may have noticed, despite the difference in the food types, most allergic symptoms are similar. This is because the proteins that cause reactions in our immune system tend to trigger the same symptoms in both children and adults. Unfortunately, current research appears to show that although some children still outgrow a food allergy, for many others it will continue through adulthood.
Other highly allergenic foods include linseed, mustard seeds, chamomile, avocados, bananas, peaches, kiwi, garlic, aniseed, sesame seed, and cocoa. The best way to avoid complications with severe food allergies is to avoid those foods at all costs. If you have consumed an allergenic food and are experiencing symptoms, use your epi-pen and/or contact your doctor immediately before the symptoms get worse.
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