This time of year is the height of allergy season for many people, but for some, allergies are a year-round burden. In this instance, we’re talking about food allergies – adverse immunologic reactions to proteins in certain foods that the body mistakenly recognizes as harmful or dangerous. Nearly 15 million people are affected by some kind of food allergy, and while any food could potentially be problematic, the most common culprits are peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, soy, milk, eggs, fish, and shellfish. A reaction can manifest externally by affecting the skin or internally by causing respiratory, gastrointestinal, or potentially even cardiovascular issues.
Alternatively, but in addition to allergies, many people suffer from food sensitivities or intolerances. These do not involve an immune system response, but can still cause undesirable physiological reactions. Symptoms can be similar, but are often more subtle and typically include gastrointestinal distress (nausea, stomach pain, heartburn, intestinal cramping, bloating or gas), headaches, and/or irritability.
Allergies can be diagnosed by a physician via skin prick tests, blood tests, or oral food challenges, however intolerances and sensitivities can be harder to pinpoint and may require elimination diets, food diaries, and some trial and error. Treatment is always individualized, but usually requires eliminating or reducing your intake of problem foods and addressing the associated symptoms.
Looking for more nutritional guidance? Contact Carrie Linke, MS, RD, LDN at email@example.com.