A food allergy is a type 1 hypersensitivity reaction which occurs in 6% to 8% of children and about 2 % of the adult population.
This ailment is considered to arise in those who have genetic predispositions together with sudden exposures to allergens during the early years of their life as an effect of suffering from gastrointestinal, respiratory tract or nasal mucosa. It has certainly been proven to be caused by the proteins found in some foods. Once ingested and during the digestion process, the immune system incorrectly identifies the protein as a foreign body. There are some proteins in food that are not absorbed correctly during the process of digestion or absorbed into the body, and they are marked by the immunoglobulin E (IgE).
IgE is an antibody which is formed plasma cells and lymphocytes which respond to the stimulus created by the immunoglobulin. This antibody is solely involved in the allergic reactions or disorders and even some parasitic functions from which we suffer. Through ongoing research a second type of food allergy has also been identified one which is classed as a non-IgE syndrome. This is one in which the T-cells play a vital role.
There are many foods around these days which can trigger allergic symptoms or reactions.
Any food can contain an allergen that results in anaphylaxis (a severe, whole-body allergic reaction). There are however some more common offenders such as seafood (lobster, shrimp, crabs, clams, some types of fish), legumes (beans, peanuts, licorice and peas), seeds (sunflower, sesame, caraway, cottonseed, flaxseed and mustard), berries, tree nuts, milk, buckwheat, egg white, and chocolate. Tree nuts and peanuts (e.g. cashew, walnut) allergies are responsible for most severe food allergy reactions. Some 70% of children with peanut allergies, their symptoms develop right from their very first exposure to the food, which has tended to suggest unknown exposure through breast milk or another source.
Pregnant women as well as those breast-feeding who are known to have a family history of allergies, namely mother, father, or sibling of the unborn infant with asthma, eczema or hay fever should steer clear of peanuts and foods which contain peanut traces whilst pregnant as a precautionary measure. One of the dangers of food allergy is that they may be hidden in other foods and not apparent to people who are susceptible to the allergen. For example, peanuts and peanut butter are often used in salad dressings and Asian, African, and Mexican cooing and may result in severe allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis. Previous contamination of equipment with allergens (e.g. peanuts) during preparation of another food product (e.g. chocolate cake) is enough to produce anaphylaxis in people with severe allergy.
Peanut allergy is the most frequent cause of anaphylaxis, and allergic reactions to peanuts can include swelling of the throat, making it difficult to breathe, constriction of the airways, hypotension or decrease in blood pressure leading to shock, rapid pulse, dizziness and loss of consciousness. Some people are also allergic to wheat. Unlike peanuts, wheat allergy is rare.
It normally presents itself as a food allergy but it can also be a type of contact allergy following an exposure to wheat. Like all types of allergies, wheat allergy involves the immunoglobulin E, and it has several types as well. Some of these include gluten allergy, wheat pollen and grass allergy, and albumin and globulin allergy. Wheat allergy symptoms consist of eczema, hives, asthma, hay fever, angioedema or swelling of tissue due to leakage of fluid from the blood vessels), nausea, abdominal cramps and vomiting. The symptoms of allergies may vary from person to person as well as the amount of food ingested to cause the reaction.
Chocolate is by far the most well-loved food for everybody, but it can be a cause for allergy and anaphylaxis. Like wheat allergies, a cocoa allergy or an allergic reaction to the cocoa bean is very rare. Since chocolate product contains many ingredients such as peanuts, soy, milk and wheat, most chocolate allergic symptoms are caused by these add-on ingredients. After ingestion of the chocolate, classic clinical symptoms will follow which includes: hives, pruritus (itching), eczema, wheezing, coughing, laryngeal edema and gastrointestinal symptoms (itching, swelling of the tongue, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, and diarrhea).
A careful diagnostic workup is required in any person with suspected food hypersensitivity.
Included in the diagnostic workup will be a detailed allergy history, a physical examination, and pertinent diagnostic tests. Skin testing is use to identify the source of symptoms and is useful in identifying specific food causative agents.
Therapy for food hypersensitivity includes elimination of the food responsible for the hypersensitivity. Pharmacologic therapy must be undertaken for those who cannot are not able to avoid exposure to the foods which set off the reaction and also for those individuals with numerous food sensitivities and who are not responsive to any of the avoidance measures available.
Medication therapy involves the use of histamine blockers, antihistamines, corticosteroids, and cromolyn sodium. Another essential aspect of management is teaching the person how to identify and cope with the early stages of a severe anaphylactic response. There are quite a few food allergies which will dissipate over time and this appears to be more the case with children. Approximately a third of the proven allergic reactions will disappear within a period of between 1 to 2 years provided the individuals are carefully and avoid the foods which set it off in the first place.
However, a peanut allergy has been known to continue throughout adulthood in some individual cases. The individual suffering with the allergy should also be extremely aware of the importance of assessing the foods that are prepared by other people for the obvious, as well as hidden sources of food allergens and must pay particular attention to the avoidance of locations and facilities where those allergens are likely to be present.
Careful note should also be taken to read food labels and monitor the preparation of foods by others to be sure that exposure to even smallest amounts of allergenic food is circumvented. Most importantly, the person, along with his family must know the signs and symptoms of an allergic reaction and must be proficient in emergency administration of first aid medication and treatments.