Food Allergy

Food allergies are a common condition that occurs when your immune system reacts to specific proteins found in certain foods.

Do I have a Food Allergy?

Are you experiencing some discomfort after eating certain foods, and I suspect it might be related to food allergies?

Food allergies are a common condition that occurs when your immune system reacts to specific proteins found in certain foods. When you consume these trigger foods, your immune system mistakenly identifies these proteins as harmful substances and launches an immune response to protect your body.

This immune response can lead to a variety of symptoms that can range from mild to severe. Some common symptoms of food allergies include skin reactions like itching or hives, gastrointestinal symptoms like abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhoea, respiratory symptoms like wheezing or difficulty breathing, and in severe cases, a life-threatening allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis.

It’s important to note that food allergies are different from food intolerances. While food allergies involve an immune system response, food intolerances usually involve the digestive system and occur when your body has difficulty digesting or processing certain foods. Food intolerances can cause uncomfortable symptoms, but they are not life-threatening like food allergies can be.

The most common food allergens include peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish, fish, milk, eggs, soy, wheat, and certain fruits like strawberries.

What causes Food Allergies?

The exact cause of food allergies is not fully understood, but there are several factors that contribute to their development.

Factors that may contribute;
– Genetic Predisposition: There is evidence to suggest that genetics play a role in the development of food allergies. If you have a family history of allergies, asthma, or eczema, you may have a higher risk of developing food allergies.

– Immune System Dysfunction: Food allergies occur when the immune system mistakenly identifies certain proteins in foods as harmful substances. In individuals with food allergies, the immune system overreacts to these proteins and produces an allergic response. It is still unclear why some people’s immune systems react this way, while others do not.

– Allergen Exposure: Food allergies typically develop after repeated exposure to specific allergenic foods. It is believed that early exposure to potential allergens during infancy and early childhood may increase the risk of developing allergies. Delaying the introduction of certain foods, such as peanuts, beyond the recommended age may increase the risk of developing an allergy to those foods.

-Environmental Factors: Environmental factors, such as pollution and certain dietary changes, may contribute to the development of food allergies. Changes in the gut microbiota, which are the beneficial bacteria in our intestines, have also been linked to the development of allergies.

It’s important to note that food allergies can develop at any age, and you may not necessarily have a history of allergies or a family history of food allergies to be at risk. Additionally, it’s worth mentioning that while some food allergies may be outgrown over time, certain allergies, such as those to peanuts, tree nuts, fish, and shellfish, tend to persist into adulthood.
If you suspect you have a food allergy, it is recommended to consult with a healthcare professional who can evaluate your symptoms, conduct appropriate tests, and provide guidance on managing your condition.

What are the common symptoms of Food Allergies?

Food allergies can cause a wide range of symptoms, and the severity of these symptoms can vary from person to person.

Here are some common symptoms associated with food allergies:
– Skin Reactions: Itchy skin, hives (red, raised, itchy bumps on the skin), eczema (dry, red, itchy patches), swelling of the face, lips, tongue, or throat.
– Gastrointestinal Symptoms: Abdominal pain, cramps, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea.
– Respiratory Symptoms: Runny or stuffy nose, sneezing, coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness.
– Oral Symptoms: Itchy or tingling sensation in the mouth, lips, or throat, swelling of the lips, tongue, or throat.
– Cardiovascular Symptoms: Rapid heartbeat, low blood pressure, dizziness, lightheadedness.
– Systemic Symptoms: Generalised itching, flushing of the skin, feeling of warmth, sense of impending doom.

It’s important to note that food allergies can sometimes lead to a severe and potentially life-threatening allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is a medical emergency and requires immediate medical attention. Symptoms of anaphylaxis may include difficulty breathing, wheezing, swelling of the throat or tongue, severe drop in blood pressure, rapid pulse, dizziness, loss of consciousness, and confusion.

How do I get diagnosed with food allergies?

You can arrange a consult with one of our healthcare professional, who specialises in diagnosing and managing allergies.

Here are the typical steps involved in the diagnostic process:
– Medical History: Your healthcare provider will start by taking a detailed medical history, including any symptoms you have experienced after consuming certain foods. They will ask questions about the timing, duration, and nature of your symptoms.
– Physical Examination: A physical examination may be conducted to assess any visible signs or symptoms related to food allergies. This examination may include a thorough evaluation of your skin, respiratory system, and gastrointestinal system.
– Allergy Testing: Allergy testing helps identify specific allergens that may be causing your food allergy. The two primary types of allergy tests used for diagnosing food allergies are:
a. Skin Prick Test: In this test, small amounts of allergens are applied to your skin with a tiny needle or lancet. If you are allergic to a particular food, a small raised bump (wheal) surrounded by redness (flare) will appear at the test site.
b. Blood Test: A blood test, such as a specific IgE blood test, measures the levels of IgE antibodies produced in response to specific allergens. Elevated levels of IgE antibodies to certain foods can indicate a food allergy.
– Oral Food Challenge: In some cases, your healthcare provider may recommend an oral food challenge. This involves consuming gradually increasing amounts of a suspected allergenic food under medical supervision. It helps determine if you have a true allergic reaction to the food or if your symptoms are due to other factors.

It’s important to continue consuming the allergenic food(s) leading up to the diagnostic tests to ensure accurate results. However, these tests should only be performed under the guidance of a healthcare professional, as they can carry some risk of an allergic reaction.

Based on the results of these tests and your clinical history, a diagnosis can be made and provide recommendations for managing your food allergy.

Remember, it is essential to consult with a healthcare professional to get an accurate diagnosis and appropriate guidance for managing your food allergy effectively. They can provide personalised advice based on your specific allergies and help you develop a management plan that suits your needs.