Food allergies

Food allergies are also called food hypersensitivities. They usually occur after a particular type of food is ingested — leading to unpleasant reactions in the immune system. Food allergies happen when the immune system recognizes some of the proteins found in food as harmful.

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Of course, these proteins may not necessarily be harmful to the body. And when the immune system wrongly recognises them as harmful, it produces antibodies which in turn triggers allergic reactions. The release of antibodies by the immune system is a way of offering protection to the body against harmful substances. The body releases chemicals such as histamine which causes inflammation (an allergic reaction).

Food allergies are one of the most common forms of allergies. In some cases, an allergy experienced during childhood may continue into adulthood. Food allergy symptoms can begin after a few minutes or a few hours after the intake of the food which causes the allergy. Some of these symptoms include:

Swelling of the tongue, lips mouth and face (oedema), low blood pressure, breathing difficulty, diarrhoea, hives, rashes, vomiting, etc.

In extreme cases, anaphylaxis may occur as a result of a food allergy. Anaphylaxis is a severe and rapid allergic reaction to allergens, which causes the trachea to constrict, prevents breathing and may eventually lead to what is called anaphylactic shock.

 Some of the most common food allergies are listed below:

Egg allergy

This food allergy is very common among children. Symptoms of an egg allergy include skin reactions, digestive stress, respiratory problems and on rare occasions, anaphylaxis. An interesting fact is that some people might be allergic to egg whites but not egg yolks and vice versa. However, an egg white allergy is more common because the proteins which trigger the allergy are usually found in egg whites.

The sole treatment for an egg allergy is to avoid egg-containing diets. It has been observed that heating eggs may change the structure of the proteins that cause allergies. This prevents your body from seeing them as harmful.

Hence one may not have to avoid all egg-related food. According to some studies, children with an egg allergy who are given baked foods are more likely to outgrow their allergic condition over a short period. However, this doesn’t apply to everyone. It should be noted that the consequences of consuming eggs when you have egg allergies can be severe. It is advisable to visit a doctor in trying to contain egg allergies.

Tree nuts allergy

A tree nut allergy is an allergy to some nuts and seeds from trees. Examples of nuts and seeds that can trigger allergies are Brazil nuts, almonds, macadamia nuts, cashews, pistachios, pine nuts, walnuts, etc. Tree nuts are very common food allergies and are highly obtainable. Food products made from these nuts can also trigger allergies in individuals who are allergic to nuts and seeds.

Individuals with tree nut allergies are advised to avoid all kinds of tree nuts even though they may be showing allergic reactions to one or two types of nuts. This is because being allergic to one type of tree nut indicates a higher risk of being allergic to other types of tree nuts. Moreover, one can easily avoid all types of tree nuts rather than just one.

Unlike egg allergy, tree nut allergy us usually a lifelong condition. About fifty percent of anaphylaxis-related deaths are caused by tree nut allergies. This shows that they could be extremely severe. As a result, people with nut allergies are advised to carry an ‘epi-pen” with them wherever they go.

An epi-pen is a potential lifesaving device used by people with allergies during severe attacks. The device allows people to inject themselves with adrenaline as soon as they begin to notice that a severe allergic reaction is about to occur. Adrenaline or epinephrine is a hormone which stimulates the body’s response to stress. It is called a “fight or flight” hormones because of its actions. A shot of adrenaline with an epi-pen can save a person’s life when they begin to react severely to their allergies.

Peanuts allergy

Peanut allergies are quite similar to tree nut allergies and are very common. They can cause severe and life-threatening allergic reactions as well. The major difference between a tree nut allergy and a peanut allergy is that peanuts are considered as legumes.

However, people who are allergic to peanuts are also allergic to tree nuts. The reason why people become allergic to peanuts is unknown. Although an individual who has a family history of peanut allergy may likely be at risk of being allergic to peanuts.

People used to believe that the introduction of peanuts during the early stages of birth through the mother’s breastmilk increases the risk of its allergy. However, it has been established that introducing peanuts in the early stages of a child’s life may even protect them from the allergy.  Peanut allergy can be determined by carrying out blood tests, skin tests, as well as checking a patient’s history of allergic reactions.

There is no cure for peanut allergy at the moment. Therefore the only way to avoid this allergy is abstaining from peanuts and peanut-related products.

Shellfish allergy

This form of allergy occurs as a result of the immune system producing antibodies to attack proteins from the crustacean and mollusks family of fish know as shellfish. Examples of shellfish are shrimps, crayfish, lobster, scallops, squids, prawns, etc. The protein, tropomyosin is responsible for triggering of seafood allergies including shellfish allergy.

Symptoms of shellfish allergies do not occur after a long time — they quickly announce their presence. These allergies show similarities to other IgE food allergies. It is usually difficult to distinguish a seafood allergy from contamination of seafood from disease-causing agents such as bacteria, viruses or parasites.

This is because they show similar symptoms like vomiting, diarrhoea and stomach ache. Shellfish allergies do not stop over time. Therefore, to avoid shellfish allergies, one must have to omit shellfishes in their diet or avoid any shellfish-containing diet.

5. Fish allergy

Fish allergies are not rare; they affect nearly two percent of adults. Unlike other types of allergies, fish allergies may come up later in the life of an individual. Even though they may not have had the allergy during childhood. About forty percent of people with fish allergy developed the allergy in adulthood. A fish allergy has similarities to a shellfish allergy and could also prove to be fatal if not properly contained. The major symptoms of fish allergies are vomiting and diarrhoea.

Although anaphylaxis may occur — but it is very rare. Individuals who show fish allergic reactions are also advised to carry epi-pen devices with them wherever they go. A fish allergy may sometimes be confused with contamination caused by bacteria and viruses. It has been established that people who are allergic to shellfish may not be allergic to fish. This is because both shellfish and fish do not carry the same types of proteins. Many individuals with fish allergies may be allergic to different types of fish or just one particular fish.

Citrus fruits allergy

People may be allergic to fruits such as oranges, lemons, grapefruits and limes. These fruits are called citrus fruits. And people may experience allergic reactions by coming in contact with the peels of these fruits. Albeit rare, there are medical cases of citrus fruits leading to anaphylaxis. Citric acid cannot cause an allergic reaction. This is because it does not trigger immune responses. Although it could cause irritations in the skin and mouth and can even lead to stomach upset. Therefore, technically, citric acid is not an allergen. Symptoms of citrus fruit allergies include reddening of the lips and gums, intense itching of the lips, itching of the tongue. You can only experience citrus fruit allergies when they touch your skin as they are often localized. Skin redness, dry flaky skin, swelling, and blisters are often experienced by individuals who are allergic to citrus fruit peels.

References

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5123910/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK482187/