What is a food allergy?
An allergy is an abnormal reaction by the body to a substance that is not generally harmful; a food allergy occurs when the immune system identifies a particular food item as a threat and releases certain chemicals, such as histamines, to fight off the "invader." These chemicals cause the symptoms commonly associated with food allergies.
There are two different types of food allergies: those that cause an immediate reaction and those that cause a delayed-onset reaction.
- Immediate Food Allergies
Immediate food allergies, or Type One toxic reactions, occur when the immune system releases a protein known as an IgE antibody in response to a particular food. With an IgE food allergy, you may experience a severe reaction upon even brief exposure to an offending food item - in the most serious cases, death may occur. The symptoms of an immediate food allergy reaction may include any of the following:
- Difficulty breathing, wheezing;
- Swelling of the mouth and throat;
- Nausea or vomiting;
- Decrease in blood pressure;
- Loss of consciousness.
These symptoms typically appear as soon as exposure to the food item takes place, and they may worsen over the course of several hours. Immediate medical attention should be sought for a Type One toxic reaction.
- Delayed Onset Food Allergies
As the name implies, this type of food allergy does not ordinarily produce any symptoms until several hours after eating the food in question. For this reason, it is much more difficult to pinpoint the particular food that is responsible for the reaction. In the case of delayed onset allergic reactions, the immune system releases a different set of antibodies than those triggered by an immediate allergic reaction; these include IgG, IgA, and IgM antibodies.
Delayed onset allergic reactions (often described as food intolerances) are generally less severe than immediate onset allergies, but they often cause long-term health problems that can greatly reduce a person's quality of life. The following health problems are associated with food intolerances:
- Diarrhea, colitis, or constipation;
- Irritable bowel syndrome;
- Inflammatory bowel disease;
- Heartburn, chronic indigestion;
- Yeast infections;
- Canker sores;
- Skin rashes;
- Recurring ear infections;
- Rheumatoid arthritis, joint pain;
In addition to these symptoms, many medical researchers believe that autism, a serious personality
disorder, is linked to a certain type of food sensitivity.
What types of foods are most likely to cause an allergic reaction?
A handful of common food items are most often to blame for both types of food allergies:
- Cow's milk;
- Tree nuts;
How can I find out which foods are making me sick?
With immediate onset food allergies, most people can tell right away which food items are causing their allergic reactions; however, because the signs of delayed onset allergies can be easily mistaken for other health disorders, many people may not realize they have a food sensitivity at all.
If you are suffering from any of the conditions described here, it is possible that a food sensitivity could be responsible for your symptoms. A simple finger prick blood test can help to identify the antibodies caused by a delayed onset food allergy and pinpoint the food that is causing your problem.
The ELISA (short for enzyme linked immunosorbent assay) test is highly effective for determining whether you have a food sensitivity and which food is responsible. Once you have determined the source of the problem, treating your health disorder can be as straightforward as eliminating that particular item from your diet.
If you have any of the symptoms discussed here, you don't have to simply put up with them - by making some simple changes in the foods that you eat, you may be able to alleviate the symptoms and enjoy improved quality of life.
To order food allergy finger stick lab test kits or find out more about food allergies visit HealthRemedies.com. Valerie Balandra NP is a nurse practitioner that takes a naturopathic and functional medicine approach in her patient care. Valerie is available for telephone consultations by calling 941 371-7997.