Food allergies consist of an intolerance your body has to the proteins found in certain foods. Allergic reactions range from itching and reddened skin to serious reactions like anaphylactic shock.
Food allergies usually start in a person’s first few years of childhood. It depends on the type of food and the reaction is causes.
What is a food allergen?
An allergen is a substance capable of producing an abnormal reaction in a person’s immune system. A food allergen is a product or ingredient that contains a certain compound (allergen) able to produce serious reactions in allergic people.
What are the most common food allergies?
There are currently more than 160 food allergens. However, according to the Food Allergen Labeling And Consumer Protection Act the most common ones are:
- Milk: The most common allergy is to milk protein, especially for babies. But it may go away by age 3.
- Eggs: Eggs can cause serious reactions including anaphylaxis, affecting the body and organs in a matter of minutes.
- Fish: Fish can cause very serious reactions. In fact, some people get a reaction by just smelling it.
- Nuts: The more a food can resist heat during digestion, the worse the allergy. This is the case with nuts.
- Peanuts: They are the main trigger of anaphylaxis.
- Wheat and soy: While uncommon, grains can cross-react with allergens of pollen.
What are the symptoms of a food allergy?
Normally the symptoms of a food allergy appear a few minutes to two hours after consuming the food.
- Reddening of the skin
- Tingling sensation
- Itching in the mouth
- Vomiting or diarrhea
- Stomach cramps
- Cough or noisy breathing
- Dizziness or confusion
- Swollen throat
- Chest pressure
- Loss of consciousness
What causes food allergies?
A person with a food allergy must have been exposed to the food at least once in their life. The allergy appears when the body comes into contact with the food allergen a second time.
That’s when the person’s antibodies react to the antigen, in particular the histamine that is triggering the symptoms. There are different factors that play a role in triggering a food allergy, such as:
- Genetic factors
- Exposure to antigens
- Change in gastrointestinal permeability
- Environmental factors
Replacements for food allergens
It’s true that cutting out food allergens completely can cause protein deficiencies in the long-term. It could lead to low energy and a lack of nutrients that your body needs, hence the need for replacements. Here are some good substitutes for common food allergens:
1. Milk substitutes
People with a milk allergy have nothing to worry about. There are many other foods with plenty of calcium, including:
- Dark leafy greens
There are also other kinds of nutritious milks, such as:
- Soy: It has less protein, but no cholesterol. And it has 50% less fat than whole milk.
- Almond: Rich in vitamin E and B12.
- Rice: Contains vitamin B12, iron, and calcium.
- Hazelnut: Provides calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and potassium, as well as a significant amount of antioxidants.
- Coconut: Contains calcium, phosphorus, selenium, and folic acid.
- Quinoa: Known for having magnesium, iron, zinc, vitamin E, and vitamins B1, B2, and B6.
2. Egg substitutes
Egg yolks are very nutritious, chock-full of vitamins and minerals. They contain vitamins (A, E, D, B12, B6, B2, B1, and folic acid) as well as minerals (iron, phosphorus, potassium, and magnesium). However, here are some substitutes:
- Leafy greens
- Pumpkin or squash
3. Fish substitutes
Fish contains proteins including sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, iodine, iron, and B vitamins. It’s also a natural source of polyunsaturated fatty acids. To make up for fish, you can instead have:
4. Nut substitutes
A lot of people don’t eat nuts, even if they don’t have an allergy. But the truth is they contain protein, fiber, potassium, unsaturated fatty acids, magnesium, phosphorus, vitamin E, and calcium. Some good substitutes are:
- Olive oil
To sum up, food allergies can be tricky, and so self-medicating isn’t a good idea. Allergens may change unexpectedly and then medication can be counterproductive.