Why Do We Get Food Allergies and What Can We Do about Them

Food AllergiesMany people have food allergies that can be subtle to severe. An allergy occurs when you eat something, and a substance in the food is mistaken for a pathogen or some other unfriendly organism. The immune system creates antibodies which are attached to a specialized cell, called a mast cell. The antibodies attack the harmless substance, and you may have a slight reaction. The next time you eat the same food as you ate before your immune system will recognize the harmless substance as an enemy that needs to be destroyed. The mast cells and antibodies create a chemical called histamine, which causes your allergic response.

Histamine is the chemical in the body that causes anaphylaxis. People with a severe allergy to certain kinds of food have to be very careful they don’t ingest even the smallest amount of that food. For instance, if you have an allergy to peanuts, you cannot eat peanut butter. You cannot eat anything that has peanut oil in it. You have to read labels to make sure nothing related to peanuts is in the food item.

If you go out to a restaurant, you should let the chef know that you have a food allergy. If you are allergic to seafood, you need to be careful of other things besides the obvious. Did you know that Worcestershire sauce contains anchovies? Therefore, you need to ask how food is prepared. A steak marinated in a sauce with a Worcestershire sauce base could be just the food item to send you into anaphylactic shock. Your throat could close up very quickly and your wouldn’t be able to breathe.

anaphylactic shockSupplements aren’t thought of as food, but you must know what is in a supplement before taking it into your body. For instance, glucosamine supplements are a very common supplement that people take for joint pain. If you are allergic to fish, you could endanger your life by taking a glucosamine supplement. Most glucosamine supplements contain a substance called chitin,which is found in lobsters, crabs, and shrimp. Some glucosamine supplements contain shark cartilage. If you have a fish allergy, you must be very careful to read the ingredients in supplements, such as glucosamine. You can still use certain types of glucosamine for joint pain; there are brands of glucosamine available that do not contain any ingredients obtained from fish.

If you eat out in a restaurant, and you have an allergy to fish, you may think you are safe by eating something like a burger and fries. Some restaurants may not use separate oil to cook their fish and fries. You should ask how the fries are cooked. If the oil that fries are cooked in has any contact with fish, you could have a severe allergic reaction. Never assume that you will be safe when you eat out. You must ask, when you are not sure how a particular meal is prepared.

severe allergic reactionIf you are allergic to eggs, you need to be very careful, because almost everything has eggs in them. Just like with fish, you have to ask how food is prepared in a restaurant. If you have an allergy to eggs, you are probably having a reaction to the protein in the white of the egg. You could have a mild reaction, such as a runny nose, and hives. You might also have stomach pain and feel nauseated. A severe allergic reaction to eggs would be anaphylactic shock.

You could be allergic to eggs, fish, milk, or any harmless food, and if you ate any of it, you could be putting your life at risk. Your immune system creates histamines which causes the runny nose, the hives, the nausea, and the closing of the throat. If you have an allergy to foods that could cause anaphylaxis, you must keep a self-injection dose of epinephrine with you at all times. The most common type of epinephrine for personal use is called an Epi-pen.

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