Secret causes of food allergies and tolerance that you never know about
It’s pretty common to have a reaction to a certain food, but in most cases it’s an intolerance rather than a true allergy. Why does it matter? Although they may have similar symptoms, a food allergy can be more serious.
These clues can help you figure out if it is an allergy or intolerance. A doctor can help you know for sure.
Usually comes on suddenly
Small amount of food can trigger
Happens every time you eat the food
Can be life-threatening
Usually comes on gradually
May only happen when you eat a lot of the food
May only happen if you eat the food often
Is not life-threatening.
Causes of food allergies
Reactions to chemical components of the diet are more common than true food allergies. They are caused by various organic chemicals occurring naturally in a wide variety of foods, both of animal and vegetable origin more often than to food additives, preservatives, colourings and flavourings, such as sulfites or dyes. Both natural and artificial ingredients may cause adverse reactions in sensitive people if consumed in sufficient amount, the degree of sensitivity varying between individuals.
Pharmacological responses to naturally occurring compounds in food, or chemical intolerance, can occur in individuals from both allergic and non-allergic family backgrounds. Symptoms may begin at any age, and may develop quickly or slowly. Triggers may range from a viral infection or illness to environmental chemical exposure. It occurs more commonly in women, which may be because of hormone differences, as many food chemicals mimic hormones.
A deficiency in digestive enzymes can also cause some types of food intolerances. Lactose intolerance is a result of the body not producing sufficient lactase to digest the lactose in milk; dairy foods which are lower in lactose, such as cheese, are less likely to trigger a reaction in this case. Another carbohydrate intolerance caused by enzyme deficiency is hereditary fructose intolerance.
Celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder caused by an immune response to the protein gluten, results in gluten intolerance and can lead to temporary lactose intolerance.
The most widely distributed naturally occurring food chemical capable of provoking reactions is salicylate, although tartrazine and benzoic acid are well recognised in susceptible individuals. Benzoates and salicylates occur naturally in many foods, including fruits, juices, vegetables, spices, herbs, nuts, tea, wines, and coffee. Salicylate sensitivity causes reactions to not only aspirin and NSAIDs but also foods in which salicylates naturally occur, such as cherries.
Other natural chemicals which commonly cause reactions and cross reactivity include amines, nitrates, sulphites and some antioxidants. Chemicals involved in aroma and flavour are often suspect.
The classification or avoidance of foods based on botanical families bears no relationship to their chemical content and is not relevant in the management of food intolerance.
Salicylate containing foods include apples, citrus fruits, strawberries, tomatoes, and wine, while reactions to chocolate, cheese, bananas, avocado, tomato or wine point to amines as the likely food chemical. Thus, exclusion of single foods does not necessarily identify the chemical responsible as several chemicals can be present in a food, the patient may be sensitive to multiple food chemicals and reaction more likely to occur when foods containing the triggering substance are eaten in a combined quantity that exceeds the patient’s sensitivity thresholds. People with food sensitivities have different sensitivity thresholds, and so more sensitive people will react to much smaller amounts of the substance
Symptoms of food Allergies..
A food allergy and an intolerance both can cause:
When a food irritates your stomach or your body can’t properly digest it, that’s an intolerance. You may have these symptoms:
Gas, cramps, or bloating
Irritability or nervousness
A food allergy happens when your immune system mistakes something in food as harmful and attacks it. It can affect your whole body, not just your stomach. Symptoms may include:
Rash, hives, or itchy skin
Shortness of breath
Sudden drop in blood pressure, trouble swallowing or breathing — this is life-threatening. Call 911 immediately.
Common Food Allergies and Intolerance
These triggers cause about 90% of food allergies.
Tree nuts (such as walnuts, pecans and almonds)
The most common food intolerance is lactose intolerance. It happens when people can’t digest lactose, a sugar found in milk and dairy. Another kind of intolerance is being sensitive to sulfites or other food additives. Sulfites can trigger asthma attacks in some people.
What about a gluten allergy? While celiac disease a long lasting digestive condition that’s triggered by eating gluten does involve the immune system, it doesn’t cause life-threatening symptoms.
Why Are Food Allergies on the Rise?
Currently, more than 15 million Americans, including millions of children, suffer from food allergies. Between 1997 and 2007, food allergies increased 18%, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Researchers aren’t sure why the prevalence of food allergies has increased, but several theories exist.
The hygiene hypothesis suggests that because of better sanitation and cleanliness, our immune systems mistake food proteins for foreign bacteria, viruses, and parasites, resulting in an attack against them. Some say the modern diet, which includes the consumption of genetically modified organisms in food, may play a part, although this theory isn’t well supported in the literature.
Is It Possible to Induce Tolerance?
Many questions remain about how food allergies develop and what factors may increase or mitigate the risk of development. Once a food allergy is diagnosed, however, many patients and their families want to know how they might reverse it or develop tolerance. Research is ongoing worldwide to determine how to induce tolerance. In the United States, researchers are using oral and sublingual immunotherapy.
Oral immunotherapy involves oral feeding of small and increasing amounts of the allergen to subjects over time, while sublingual immunotherapy involves placing small and increasing amounts of the allergen under the tongue over time. Clinical trials have found oral and sublingual immunotherapy to be effective in some subjects, while others have been unable to tolerate treatment because of significant adverse reactions.
In some cases, an individual’s food allergy has returned when he or she didn’t consume the allergenic protein after a period of time. This suggests study participants didn’t achieve true tolerance and that researchers observed only a period of non reactivity. Clearly, more research is needed to determine whether tolerance can be induced before making oral or sublingual immunotherapy available in the office setting.
Treatment for Food Allergy
Your doctor can find out if you have an allergy or intolerance. These things may help:
Keep a diary of the foods you eat and the symptoms you have
Stop eating some foods to help figure out which one is causing symptoms
Have allergy tests