• Brooke Bailey

Recognizing Food Allergies

I began noticing that when I ate certain foods, my body would react in strange ways. Sometimes I would cough and get mucus in my throat. Often I would get a pounding headache and feel like I had a bad flu all day. At first, I didn't suspect the food source itself, but thought that the generic option I purchased was the cause. After trying different brands and getting the same flu like symptoms, I knew there had to be another cause.

I did some research into food allergies and discovered that it's quite common for many people to have allergic reactions to foods. According to Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE), "it’s estimated that 15 million Americans have food allergies. Children are more likely to experience food allergies. Approximately 1 in every 13 children in the United States lives with food allergies".

FARE goes onto state that eight foods are responsible for 90 percent of food allergies. They are:

  • cow's milk

  • eggs

  • peanuts

  • fish

  • shellfish

  • tree nuts such as cashews or walnuts

  • wheat

  • soy

The symptoms of food allergies vary by person, and can range from mild to severe. They can even be life threatening. The food culprit acts as an allergen in the body which causes a reaction by the immune system. Sometimes symptoms show over a period of many hours, for others they appear quite quickly, as they did for me. I had tried sushi a few times because so many people rave about the health benefits, but when I ate it I felt sick afterwards. Not wanting to miss out on the benefits of fish, I tried taking it in supplement form as fish oil capsules. This was even worse. I took the gel caps in the morning with my other vitamins, and by the time I got to work 30 minutes later I felt like I needed to vomit. It made for a long day at work.

Less threatening signs of a food allergy include:

  • Sneezing accompanied by a stuffy or runny nose

  • Acne that appears usually the day after eating a food

  • Bloating and gastrointestinal discomfort like stomach cramps, sometimes diarrhea

  • Itchy or watery eyes

  • Hives or other rashes

A friend of mine discovered she had a food allergy after visiting the doctor for dark under eye circles. It didn't matter how many hours sleep she got, or what eye cream she used, she always had dark circles. Turns out this is a common complaint of those with food allergies.

Those reactions make for a long day at work, but the more severe symptoms of food allergies can be deadly, This is especially true for people with asthma, as these sufferers are at an increased risk for a fatal reaction. Pay attention if you experience any of these symptoms after eating a particular food:

  • difficulty breathing, including wheezing

  • swelling of the lips, tongue or throat

  • dizziness, nausea and vomiting

There are a couple ways to deal with a food allergy. One is to keep a food diary to monitor what you eat on a daily basis, and how you feel after consuming particular foods. This can be time consuming, and could take awhile to pinpoint the source of your allergy, but its worth the effort when your health is at risk. Be sure to check any products you purchase for ingredients: soy, nuts, and dairy make up a huge percentage of our diets. According to one source, soy is hidden everywhere including cosmetic products, baby foods, sweets and pastries, fast food burgers, and industrial products.

For serious allergic reactions, a doctor may recommend skin and blood tests, epinephrine injections, or even prescribe steroid medications for those in need of immediate treatment. For many, readily available over-the-counter antihistamines, such as diphenhydramine, may resolve the symptoms. Comment below and tell me how you identified your food allergy, and how you treated it.