Food for All


Happy New Year and welcome to my blog, Food for All!  Food for All is a healthy eating blog with a focus on food allergies and healthy living for all.  As a food allergy dietitian and a mom of 2 children with multiple food allergies, my passion is to help this community navigate the ups and downs of living with food allergies and at the same time educate others. This blog will focus on strategies for holidays, vacations, school, allergy-friendly food finds, and much more!  It will be super fun and informative and I’m hoping it will turn into a supportive interactive community. Cheers to an awesome allergy-friendly 2022!

So, what even is a food allergy?  I hear people all the time substituting the word allergy with sensitivity or intolerance. These terms are not interchangeable, so let’s break it down into more detail.

A food allergy is when the immune system overreacts to an allergen, typically a food protein, by producing antibodies called IgE. This is called an IgE-mediated food allergy. The immune system sees this allergen as a threat and these antibodies then travel to cells and release specific chemicals, causing an allergic reaction. The most common food allergens are peanuts, tree nuts, egg, cow’s milk, fish, shellfish, soy, wheat and sesame. In our household we are dealing with 5 of the top 9 food allergens.

Someone with an IgE-mediated food allergy, would most likely react to their allergen within 2hrs of ingestion and the majority of people will exhibit symptoms within 20-30min. A person with a food allergy would react to the allergen every time they ingested it. The symptoms could be mild one time and severe the next, but they would always react.

An allergic reaction can affect just about every part of the body, including the lungs, heart, throat, mouth, skin and gut. There are a variety of symptoms to look out for, such as hives, itching, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, coughing, wheezing, low blood pressure, confusion and respiratory distress. Symptoms usually resolve within 4-12 hours with proper treatment. A combination of symptoms from different body systems can occur as well, which is called anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is very unpredictable. Reactions can become more severe, and the amount of the allergen needed to induce an allergic reaction can be lower than in a previous reaction. This is why it is so important to always carry 2 doses of self-injectable epinephrine with you at all times if you have a food allergy. If intramuscular epinephrine is given, immediate improvement can be seen.

Let’s take a look at an example of someone with a possible IgE-mediated food allergy. Lisa is eating dinner with her 1yr old daughter with no known food allergies. She offers her daughter a soy-based veggie burger for the first time. Her daughter takes a couple of bites and within a few minutes her daughter’s eyes are watering and her nose is running. Her daughter is also getting a little cranky and pushes away the burger. Lisa picks up her child to console her and her daughter vomits.

A lot of people may think Lisa’s daughter is just getting sick, but these are classic signs of a food allergy. For example, the immediate reaction after ingestion, multiple body systems involved and the fact that it was her daughter’s first time ingesting soy are key factors. If Lisa’s daughter only reacted with watery eyes and runny nose or if her daughter just vomited with no other skin or respiratory reactions, then a food allergy wouldn’t be as clear. The moment multiple reactions started so quickly after ingestion, the chances of her daughter having a food allergy significantly increased and a food allergy evaluation would be warranted.

So, why do people say, “I have a food sensitivity.”? To be honest, I have no idea!  Food sensitivity is not an official medical diagnosis. The term food sensitivity is used by makers of various blood tests claiming to detect sensitivities to certain foods. The evidence supporting these tests is questionable. A health professional doesn’t even have the option when billing a patient to code for food sensitivity. Think about that… there is a code for “pecked by a turkey” and “struck by a cow”, but no code for “food sensitivity”!  Also, the results could come back telling you to remove multiple foods from your diet when you really don’t need to and in turn you would potentially be missing out on nutrients that your body needs. If you think something is up with a specific food, always consult an allergist.

Finally, let’s discuss food intolerances. This is a real thing, and it is not fun, but it is not an allergy. A food intolerance does not involve your immune system and is not life threatening. It is a response to eating certain foods usually due to an inability to digest a specific food, such as lactose intolerance. Symptoms like bloating, stomach pain and diarrhea can occur, usually a few hours after ingestion. Symptoms usually result after eating a substantial amount of the food, unlike a food allergy where a trace amount can cause a severe allergic reaction.

I hope you learned something new and feel free to comment below or ask a question. Stay safe and healthy!

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