What is food allergy and its symptoms?
A food allergy (or hypersensitivity) is an abnormal immune system reaction to a substance in food. While many people often have gas, bloating or another unpleasant reaction to something they eat, this is not an allergic response. This doesn't involoves immune system and is called "food intolerance".
Normally, when hostile substances enter the blood, the immune system promptly reacts by producing antibodies to engulf and destroy them. In allergic conditions, however, the immune system reacts with the same hostility to certain 'innocent' substances, releasing histamine. This can cause a wide variety of distressing symptoms such as:
- Swelling of the tongue and the throat
- Difficulty Breathing
- Abdominal Cramps
These food allergy symptoms typically appear within minutes to two hours after the person has eaten the food to which he or she is allergic.
Causes of Food Allergies
The causes of allergies are not fully known by science, however, it is known that the protein parts of foods and dust can trigger allergies.
Two common causes of food allergies are:
- low levels of stomach acid and,
- a shortage of certain pancreatic digestive enzymes.
The pancreas secretes enzymes which break down protein into its components, the amino acids. A shortage of these enzymes can result in partly digested protein and it is these protein fragments that can induce food allergies in the intestines which produce not only physical, but also mental, symptoms.
Some common food additives, such as benzoic acid (E210) and tartrazine (El02) are known to cause allergic reactions in people with sensitivities, especially children.
Cure for food allergies
People having food allergies should identify them, and avoid foods that cause allergic reactions.
The most common allergenic foods are cow's milk, eggs, chocolate, oranges, wheat, cheese, tomatoes, beef and maize, while among the least allergenic foods are rice, peas and avocados. A craving for a specific food can signal a food allergy and the detection of these allergy-causing foods can be done by the 'pulse test'.
A number of nutrients can alleviate or cure these allergies, including vitamin C and quercetin, both potent antihistamines, vitamin B6, zinc, vitamin E and calcium. In fact, some nutritionists believe that allergies may be caused by nutrient deficiencies.
Epinephrine, also called adrenaline, is the medication of choice for controlling a severe reaction. It is available by prescription as an EpiPen® auto injector.