‘Food’ is what people eat to survive. However, it has now also become a bliss to life and many people enjoy the privilege of being able to consume all types of desired food. ‘Food’ also opens the doorway to receiving nutrition while satisfying the taste buds.
However, this is not the case for people with food allergies. Being allergic to food can be quite dangerous if one is not cautious about what they consume. An allergy, especially towards a preferred kind of food can be difficult to avoid.
Also, when having food allergies, one must be very watchful about what he or she eats in order to prevent the triggering of allergic reactions.
A ‘Food Allergy’ is an abnormal reaction of the immune system of the body due to the intake of intolerant food.
When having allergies towards a certain type of food, the smallest touch of that food can bring about great consequences including death. While ‘Food Allergy’ is a common condition faced by most people, it is important to have a clear understanding about the condition and its effects.
Speaking to the health capsule, Doctor Renuka Jayatissa, Consultant Medical Nutritionist at the Medical Research Institute, provided an insight to this abnormal response to food by the body.
WHAT IS A FOOD ALLERGY?
When an abnormal reaction occurs in response to a certain food item due to the triggering of the immune system of the body, it is known as a food allergy.
Dr. Jayatissa explained that there are mainly two types of abnormal responses caused. They are; the permanent food allergy and the temporary food intolerance. She stated that the most common response is the food intolerance, which can be grown out of over a certain period of time.
However, the permanent food allergy will be present throughout the lifetime. When being a victim to such a food allergy, the patient should avoid the intake of the particular food and anything that contains even a hint of the intolerant substance in order to avoid the consequences.
WHAT CAUSES FOOD ALLERGIES?
When a protein component is not tolerated by the body, the immune system will react to it in an abnormal manner bringing about various unfavourable conditions to the body.
Dr. Jayatissa stated that food allergies often provides a ‘shock’ to the normal bodily functions and therefore causes discomfort to the body and its systems.
Dr Jayatissa also explained that the most common food allergy is usually towards ‘peanuts’. The other common food items that are likely to initiate allergic reactions in most people include milk, coconut milk, bananas and wheat flour. Dr Jayatissa mentioned that the gluten contained in wheat flour is the most common cause for food allergies.
Eggs, tree nuts, shellfish, soy and fish are also common food that cause allergies.
EFFECTS OF FOOD ALLERGIES
While food intolerance is not fatal, a food allergy can cause death if not treated in time. They can also give rise to various medical conditions, mostly associated with the skin.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
The symptoms of food allergies range from mild to severe and usually arise soon after the food is taken into the body. These symptoms include wheezing, difficulty in breathing, coughing, runny nose, itchiness, patches in the body, rashes, lacrimation, red eyes, vomiting and in some cases it can also cause digestive problems and result in swollen airways.
HOW IS A FOOD ALLERGY DIAGNOSED?
In order to diagnose an allergic reaction, Dr Jayatissa advised readers to be watchful about what’ s eaten. She stressed the importance of being cautious about food that shows a negative response so that it can be discussed with a doctor. Allergy tests are usually done in order to confirm if the body is ‘really’ allergic to a certain food.
Dr. Jayatissa explained that it is quite easy to recognise a food allergy and that people would be able to figure it out themselves. Therefore, being observant about the daily meals is important, just in case an abnormal reaction is triggered.
Certain food that is harmful to one person may not affect others. Therefore, one should be able to identify the food that is not tolerated by their body.
TREATMENT OF FOOD ALLERGIES
Although there is no cure for food allergies, they can be treated to resolve the harmful effects.
The allergic reactions can be treated pharmacologically. If the allergy is severe, treatment is required immediately. Therefore, for such life threatening reactions, medicine is given through injections for immediate effect.
Anti-histamines are useful drugs that are given to treat most mild to moderate reactions.
Also, it is recommended to avoid the food one is allergic to in order to ensure safety from food allergies.
ALLERGIES DURING CHILDHOOD
Food allergies that are often triggered during the childhood are mostly temporary and can be grown out of.
Dr Jayatissa explained that young children face many sensitivities that are often misinterpreted to be allergic reactions. Therefore, she advised that the parents should first identify if it is a ‘real’ allergy and what kind of food caused the reaction.
When an allergy is identified, Dr Jayatissa said that it is important to get the confirmation from a physician so that the intolerant food item can be avoided in the future. If parents feel that their child is reacting to a certain food in some way, they should immediately consult a doctor and verify the problem.