Our immune system protects us from infection from bacteria and viruses, but sometimes it overreacts and we have an allergic reaction to harmless substances known as allergens. When an allergen enters the body and triggers a reaction, our bodies up the production of antibodies called Immunoglobulin E (IgE). These antibodies travel throughout the body, and when you come in contact with the allergen again, cells in the skin, lungs and gastrointestinal tract react by producing histamine, typically causing symptoms in the nose, lungs, throat, sinuses, and in the lining of the stomach or on the skin.
Symptoms of Food Allergies
Symptoms of food allergies include itching, hives, swelling of lips, tongue and throat, diarrhea, vomiting, wheezing or difficulty breathing. When the reaction is severe and becomes life threatening, it is called anaphylaxis, and usually involves multiple systems in the body. Symptoms of food allergies can occur when a person is exposed to even small amounts of the food item.
Food items that commonly trigger an allergic reaction are milk and eggs, fish and shellfish, peanuts and tree nuts, soy and wheat. Certain cheeses and fermented foods may also trigger allergic reactions in some people.
Testing for Food Allergies
Testing can be difficult for food allergies, as skin-testing can often cause a reaction that is a false positive. Patients are usually asked to keep a food-symptom diary in order to keep track of their reactions, and the severity of those reactions, to various foods. Once the food-symptom diary reveals one or two suspected foods that a patient has a reaction to, it is often recommended that they test that theory with an elimination diet. An elimination diet simply means avoiding the suspected food allergen to see if symptoms disappear or if they persist. If symptoms persist, either there is another food item or a non-food allergen that is causing the reaction.
Food Intolerance and Poor Digestion
Sometimes, what people think is a food allergy is simply food intolerance or the result of poor digestion. Digestive Enzymes can aid in digestion by offering 15 enzymes that help you better digest foods and their components, such as: proteins, carbohydrates, sugars, starches, fibers, fats; and even hard-to-digest foods such as: dairy products, grains and legumes.
If you truly have a food allergy, then avoiding that food is the only treatment currently available to you. But if you are experiencing general gastrointestinal issues, Digestive Enzymes may help improve digestion and nutrient absorption.