Food allergies develop when the body’s immune system reacts to certain foods that are harmless. When this reaction occurs, the body produces antibodies to the food and releases various chemicals in the body, which triggers allergic reactions such as hives, nausea, swelling, difficulty breathing, diarrhea, etc.1, 2 Food intolerances, unlike food allergies, do not involve the immune system; instead it is a food reaction in the digestive system.
Research indicates that over 12 million Americans suffer with food allergies—2 to 4% are adults and 6 to 8% are children.3, 4 There are many foods that could cause an allergic reaction, but only 8 of them account for over 90% of all food allergies.3, 4 These foods are dairy, soy, eggs, wheat, fish, shellfish, peanuts and tree nuts (such as almonds, cashews, etc.). A food allergy can occur in both children and adults of all ages and races. According to the Center for Disease Control each year hundreds die from food allergies and over 30,000 receive life-saving treatment in emergency rooms due to food induced anaphylaxis (a serious allergic reaction) and 150 deaths annually.2
Unfortunately, today there is no medicine to cure people with food allergies. The best prescription that many doctors give is for the person to avoid all food that they are allergic to. Some sources state that people can grow out of their allergies; however this is not always true for everyone. In 2005, I was diagnosed with food intolerances to casein (protein found in milk), eggs, and soy; and, in 2006, I learned that I have food allergies to almonds, blueberries, pineapples, cane sugar, yeast, whey, and sesame. I also learned that many of these foods triggered arthritic inflammation in my body. Consequently, I have completely removed all of these foods from my diet, and yes I can tell the difference in how I feel—much better!
You cannot look at someone to determine if he or she has a food allergy. So, please be sure to ask first or label the ingredients in foods before serving to people—it could mean life or death.
1 “What is a food allergy?” The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network. June 10, 2008 <http://www.foodallergy.org/questions.html>.
2“Allergies: Problem Foods: Is It an Allergy or Intolerance?” WebMD. June 10, 2008 <http://www.webmd.com/allergies/guide/foods-allergy-intolerance>.
3“Healthy Youth! Food Allergies.” CDC. June 11, 2008 <http://www.cdc.gov/HealthyYouth/foodallergies>.
4“Food Allergy Information.” Food Allergy Initiative. June 11, 2008 <http://www.foodallergyinitiative.org/section_home.cfm?section_id=3>.