Sometimes a reaction to food is not an allergy. It is often a reaction called a "food intolerance". Your immune system does not cause the symptoms of food intolerance, but these symptoms can look and feel like those of a food allergy. You know you have a food allergy when you have an abnormal response to a food that is triggered by your body's immune system.
In adults, the foods that most often trigger allergic reactions include:
- Fish and shellfish, such as shrimp, lobster, and crab
- Tree nuts, such as walnuts
How Do Allergic Reactions to Food Occur?
The allergens in food are those components that are responsible for inciting an allergic reaction. They are proteins that usually resist the heat of cooking, the acid in the stomach, and the intestinal digestive enzymes. As a result, the allergens survive to cross the gastrointestinal lining, enter the bloodstream, and go to target organs, causing allergic reactions throughout the body.
Common Health Problems Linked to Food Allergies
Numerous health problems have been linked to food allergies and food intolerances - common everyday problems like:
- aching joints
- gastrointestinal disorders
- hyperactivity/ADD, asthma
ADD, ADHD and Food Allergies
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a behavioral condition in which children/adults have difficulties paying attention and focusing on tasks. This common disorder begins in early childhood and can continue into adulthood. If not recognized and treated, it can cause problems at home, school, and work and with relationships. Many adults do not realize that they have ADHD until their children are diagnosed and they begin to recognize their own symptoms. Adults with ADHD may find it hard to focus, organize, and finish tasks. They are often forgetful and absent-minded.
Eating a balanced diet can help all people—including those with ADHD—function well. Those concerned about diet and ADHD hypothesize a toxic or allergic effect by some foods. The most commonly targeted foods are milk, wheat, dyes, preservatives, sugars, and caffeine. These diet elements are believed to cause or at least contribute to ADHD and ADD Symptoms.
Arthritis and Food Allergies
The body can be allergic to any food; therefore any food allergy is capable of causing inflammation and arthritis. This includes RA, juvenile arthritis, and undefined joint pains. This is why it can be so difficult for one to recognize the relationship between their diet and their symptoms. Let’s use a dairy allergy as an example. If you eat any form of dairy, be it milk, butter, cheese, yogurt, or even dairy in the form of casein or whey in another food product, such as bread or milk chocolate, then you can potentially trigger the symptoms of your food allergy, in this case, arthritis. Allergy symptoms may show up hours or even a day later, well after food is absorbed into your system.
Learn more about Arthritis and Food Allergies
Chronic Fatigue and Food Allergies
Chronic fatigue syndrome causes such devastating tiredness or fatigue that you can’t perform all of the normal, daily activities you used to. There are other symptoms as well, but fatigue lasting six months or more is the main one. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) affects almost 1,000,000 Americans a year. Some people battle CFS for years. Researchers do not know what causes CFS, but they believe this illness involves interactions between the dysfunction of the immune system and trigger agents such as viruses. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome causes incapacitating fatigue, pain, neurological problems and a list of symptoms that can represent other disorders. Each person living with CFS has a unique assortment of symptoms which fits into a recognizable pattern.
Allergic reactions to food, food intolerance (hypersensitivity), refined food, junk foods, food additives, and chemical contaminants in food can alter our moods and lead directly or indirectly to a constant state of low energy. People with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome frequently have sensitivities to foods, chemicals, and other inhalants. These may be classical allergies – which are IgE (Immunoglobulin Type E)-mediated sensitivities or food intolerance (which is not IgE-mediated, so allergy tests, such as skin prick tests, are negative) and chemical intolerance are especially common. Patients showing evidence of this often find that the management of these sensitivities can be an essential part of improvement or recovery from the illness.
Eczema and Food Allergies
Eczema is a general term encompassing various inflamed skin conditions. One of the most common forms of eczema is atopic dermatitis (or “atopic eczema”). Approximately 10 percent to 20 percent of the world population is affected by this chronic, relapsing, and very itchy rash at some point during childhood. Fortunately, many children with eczema find that the disease clears and often disappears with age.
In general, atopic dermatitis will come and go, often based on external factors. Although its cause is unknown, the condition appears to be an abnormal response of the body’s immune system. In people with eczema, the inflammatory response to irritating substances overacts, causing itching and scratching. Eczema is not contagious and, like many diseases, currently cannot be cured. However, for most patients the condition may be managed well with treatment and avoidance of triggers.
Eczema flare-ups can be prevented through careful management of your diet. One such way is by identifying food triggers that cause your eczema to flare-up. As not all triggers are the same for everyone, you will need to determine what your food triggers are. The other way is to ensure that you have an adequate supply of nutrition that supports good healthy skin. Many eczema patients are found to be deficient in certain essential vitamins and supplements. Ensuring an adequate supply can help reduce the incidence of skin inflammation and dry skin.
Fibromyalgia and Food Allergies
Fibromyalgia is an arthritis-related condition that is characterized by generalized muscular pain and fatigue. The term “fibromyalgia” means pain in the muscles, ligaments, and tendons. This condition is referred to as a “syndrome” because it’s a set of signs and symptoms that occur together. Fibromyalgia is especially confusing and often misunderstood condition. Because its symptoms are quite common and laboratory tests are generally normal, people with fibromyalgia were once told that their condition was “all in their head.” However, medical studies have proven that fibromyalgia does indeed exist, and it is estimated to affect about 2 percent of the U.S. population today.
While there is no specific diet for all fibromyalgia cases, different symptoms may suggest ways of improving your health through diet. As fibromyalgia sufferers often have one condition amplifying another (or several others), relieving even one can increase your quality of life, sometimes substantially. If your body overreacts to certain foods, it could worsen conditions ranging from digestive troubles (gas, bloating, constipation, or diarrhea) to fatigue, headache or migraine, joint pain, mood disorders, muscle aches, and skin problems. Beef, citrus, chicken, corn, dairy, eggs, gluten (protein in wheat, barley, rye, spelt, and kamut), soy, sugar, tomatoes, wheat, yeast, etc., are common problems for individuals with food intolerance.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and Food Allergies
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is an intestinal disorder that causes abdominal pain or discomfort, cramping or bloating, and diarrhea or constipation. Irritable bowel syndrome is a long-term but manageable condition. IBS is one of the most common intestinal disorders. Most people’s symptoms are so mild that they never see a doctor for treatment. However, some people may have troublesome symptoms, especially abdominal cramps, bloating, and diarrhea. The cause of irritable bowel syndrome is not well understood. In IBS, the movement of the digestive tract is impaired, but doctors can find no change in physical structure, such as inflammation or tumors.
Treatment will depend on the types of symptoms you have and their severity, as well as how they affect your daily life, and will likely involve changes to your lifestyle. Active involvement in treatment is important to manage it successfully. Treatment usually focuses on changes in diet and lifestyle, avoiding foods that trigger symptoms and managing stress.
Migraines and Food Allergies
Migraines are painful, sometimes disabling, headaches that are often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light, noise, and smell. These throbbing headaches usually occur on only one side of the head, although the pain can shift from one side of the head to the other, or can occur on both sides at the same time. Migraines involve changes in chemicals and blood vessels in the brain, which trigger pain signals, leading to headache and other symptoms.
Migraine headaches tend to recur. A migraine headache typically lasts 4 to 24 hours but in some cases can last up to 3 days. Some people have symptoms, such as visual disturbances, that occur before a headache starts. These symptoms are called a migraine aura. Some people have several headaches per month; others have headaches much less often. In many people, migraines are triggered by certain foods or smells. Eliminating exposure to these triggers may stop the headaches.
Weight Gain, Obesity and Food Allergies
Reactions to foods are not always immediate. They can occur many hours later as bloating and swelling in the hands, feet, ankles, abdomen, chin and around the eyes. Much of the weight gained is fluid retention caused by inflammation and the release of certain hormones. In addition, there is fermentation of foods, particularly carbohydrates, in the intestines which can result in a swollen distended belly and gas production. Food allergies, as well as food sensitivities, can cause weight gain. Yes, it’s possible to have no other symptoms. You can’t count on seeing runny noses or sneezes with some food sensitivities. Instead, a person’s body perceives the food as a poison and limits digestion of nutrients, thus causing the body to store fat.
Learn more about Weight Gain, Obesity and Food Allergies
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