Food Allergies

What is a Food Allergy?

All allergies are caused by an overreaction of the immune.  Usually, the immune system helps keep us healthy.  It defends the body from "enemies" like viruses and germs, that cause disease. 

An allergic reaction occurs when the immune system mistakenly treats a food as if it were an enemy.  When this happens, the immune system produces special proteins called antibodies that
search for the food particles and then release chemicals that try to destroy the food particles. These chemicals also affect other parts of the body causing the uncomfortable, and sometimes dangerous, symptoms of an allergic reaction. * The parts of the food that causes an allergy is a protein called an allergen.  Most allergic reactions to food are caused by a small number of allergens.

Which Foods Cause Allergies?

Most food items contain some proteins;  therefore, almost any food products are more likely than others to cause an allergic reaction.  These include cow's milk, wheat, corn, chocolate, egg whites, soya beans and other legumes, peanuts, nuts, fish, shellfish (shrimp, crab, lobster), and citrus fruits such as oranges, strawberries, and tomatoes.

What are the Symptoms of an Allergic Reaction to Food?

The symptoms range from very mild to very server.  They occur alone or together with other symptoms.  Some allergic reactions to food can occur within minutes of eating that food.  Other reactions may take an hour or longer to appear.  The most common symptoms involve these body symptoms:

Digestive System: 

    * Nausea, vomiting, pain, diarrhea, and constipation.
    * Skin:  Itching, rashes, hives, and eczema.
    * Respiratory System:  Congestion, coughing, wheezing, sneezing, runny nose and asthma.
    * Other less common symptoms include headaches, tiredness, pale color, circles under the eyes, sweating, ear aches, joint pain, sleep disturbances and behavior changes.  The most severe type of reactions fall into 2 categories:

Anaphylactic Reaction:

    * This reaction involves two more of the above systems, and the cardiovascular (heat and blood circulation) system. Swelling of the mouth, throat or tongue, and shortness of breath, are particularly dangerous symptoms.

Anaphylactic Shock:

    *  In the most server cases, anaphylactic reaction is followed by anaphylactic shock.  This shock is life-threating. If not treated, it can lead to collapse and death. It is important to obtain information form your family doctor on how to treat a reaction, particularly, an anaphylactic reaction and anaphylactic shock