Food allergy: Real or something else?
Published: August 21, 2015
The incidence of food allergies, particularly peanut allergy, appears to be increasing among both adults and children. Many schools no longer allow children to bring peanut butter sandwiches or nuts as part of their lunch for fear that a child with a peanut or tree nut allergy may experience an adverse reaction such as anaphylactic shock.
Many people experience adverse reactions or unwanted/unexpected responses to food and because the response or symptoms appear to be similar to those caused by a food allergy they assume that they have a food allergy.
Psychological and behavioural problems such as ADHD in children, neurological problems such as migraine in adults, and musculoskeletal problems are also often ascribed to food allergies, but cause effect relationships between food and various disorders have not yet been identified.
Despite an apparent increase in the number of people with food allergies, only about 3-5% of children experience a true food allergy and this decreases to between 1-2% of adults. The most common food allergies in children and adolescents are egg, milk and peanut (about 85% of those diagnosed).
Some children and adults are more at risk for developing a food allergy:
- Infants, particularly premature infants: hypersensitivity is common in the first 2 years life as the gastrointestinal tract is immature
- Gastrointestinal impermeability: if compromised allergen is able to enter blood stream
- Genetic predisposition to develop allergic diseases such as atopic dermatitis (may also increase risk of non-food allergies)
- Exposure to food (antigens) through ingestion, inhalation and skin contact
- Immune function deficiency
- Environmental factors such as exposure to microbes
- Changes in gastrointestinal microflora of neonates and infants due to improved societal hygiene which may adversely affect immune system.
While you may not have experienced anaphylactic shock you may have experienced abdominal cramps, diarrhea, hives, swelling of your lip or tongue, and nausea, but are these symptoms related to a food allergy or something else? Read on to learn more.
Hubbard, S.K. (2004). Medical nutrition therapy for food allergy and food intolerance. In Mann. K. & Escott-Stump, S. (Eds.)(2004). Krause's Food, Nutrition & Diet Therapy. (11th Ed.) Elsevier
Whitney, E. & Rady Rolfes, S. (2005). Understanding Nutrition. Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth
Centre for Science in the Public Interest (May 2015, March 2014)