Food allergy is not uncommon. AAAAI says that nearly 4.1 million children and 2 million adults in the US are allergic to some or the other food.
Despite its chronic and high-risk nature, there is substantial lack of social awareness and right information. To debunk myths around food allergy, we must understand how it works.
Food allergy is an individual’s immunological response to proteins in certain foods which is triggered by consumption. Common reactions include diarrhea, breaking out in hives and asthma.
An allergic reaction can sometimes be fatal. It may require immediate medical care, which often gets negated due to lack of correct information.
Here I list some common myths associated with food allergy –
1. If you can’t digest it, you are probably allergic
There is a popular misconception that if you cannot comfortably digest a certain food, you have food allergy. However, digestive inability (food intolerance) is different from food allergy.
Take the example of lactose intolerance and milk allergy. Like most food intolerances, lactose intolerance is often genetic and is caused by your body’s inability to produce enzymes that causes lactose to break down.
On the other hand, milk allergy may not have a genetic history. It has to do with your immune system than your digestive setup. Confusing these two problems may cause misdiagnosis.
2. Eating a little is okay
Unlike food intolerance, in case of a food allergy, you can’t even have a small amount of food you are allergic to.
The immunological nature of allergy means that your body will respond poorly when you consume an allergy food.
What’s ideally suggested is to find a nutritive alternative. For example, if you suffer from wheat allergy, you should prefer recipes rich in veggies and fruits. An alkaline diet usually works for most people.
3. Reactions are always the same
One of the reasons why food allergy is not taken so seriously, is that it doesn’t throw acute reactions in the initial phase.
Mild reactions generally make people complacent. However, it is nearly impossible to predict how your body will respond to an allergen. You may only suffer from diarrhea the first time, face swelling, cystic acne or wheezing fits can be severe the next time.
A weak biological response is very likely, impacting nasopharynx, trachea and inability to breathe, and ultimately requiring medical attention. It is best to get on a medical plan to avoid health risks.
4. Peanut allergy is the most common
Due to overly subject coverage, most people believe that peanut allergy is the most common of all.
However, this is not the case. FARE says that milk and egg allergies are equally common in young children (who often outgrow it). Similarly, adults are more likely to contract shellfish allergy. Nearly 3.6% Americans today are reportedly suffering from it.
An allergy like Avocado, however isn’t very common which must not be taken lightly at any stage. It is vital to completely avoid these foods and find healthier alternatives to avoid malnutrition.
For example, if you have milk allergy, resorting to curd, yogurt, cheese, soy, coconut and almond would help. In fact, soy milk can be easily prepared at home.
Risks associated with calcium deficiency, weakening of bones, muscle degeneration, body pain, and several other conditions would be kept at bay.
5. Food allergy only develops in initial years
While food allergy is more common in children than adults, you can still suffer from it later in the life. In fact, studies indicate that 45% of allergies are contracted in adulthood.
Surprisingly, you can also have allergic reaction to a food that you commonly ate when you were a kid. Studies have found different reasons for this though.
One possible reason is the proteins in your food may be similar to a non-food item that you are allergic to, like the proteins in shrimp is similar to the ones in mites.
So your immunity can respond the way it would to the actual allergen.
6. Food allergy lasts a lifetime
Fortunately, not all allergies stay lifelong. Most children grow out of allergies of milk and peanuts by the time they are seven or eight. Most other allergies contracted during childhood can, however can last long.
If you are diagnosed with an allergy when you’re an adult, it is little difficult to overcome it.
In order to combat, it is important to keep a track of its progression. At no time, the condition should be taken for granted. You can still maintain healthy parameters with regular diagnostics and screening.
7. All possible food allergens are listed on food labels
The food labeling industry is mandated to specify if products contain peanuts and dairy traces, especially to help those who are allergic. However, a number of other allergies still remain unhighlighted.
This means that it is important to read food labels carefully to avoid consuming food you are allergic to.
One fine example is Chocolate which we all love to eat. Although chocolate is known for its health benefits, presence of cocoa in it can cause reactions to some. Even other ingredients such as milk and wheat can lead to sensitivity.
While purchasing, read the fine print to ensure the product is not made close to a potential allergen because even trace amounts can be harmful.
Final Words –
Although food allergies can make you feel restrictive, by taking right measures, you can still lead a happy and healthful life.
You must look out for right information. Refer to credible sources. Find out healthier alternatives. If at any point you feel your allergy is impacting your mental health, get professional help.
Most importantly, be aware and prevent allergy scare. It might even be more dangerous than the allergy itself.