By Bunmi Sofola
Cases of food allergies keep on going up especially with varieties of processed foods imported into the country. If you’re suffering from a rash, feeling a bit nauseous or your skin is itching, you might put it down to being under the weather or stressed. But experts believe it could be that you actually have a food allergy. ‘Allergies can affect more than one in five people during their lives, and new ones can be developed,” says Dr. Tarlochan Toor of the Medic Stop digital clinic. He then lookout for these symptoms:
Is it an allergy? An allergy will trigger an immune system reaction that affects vital organs in the body. It can cause a range of symptoms. For example, if you’re allergic to a specific ingredient or type of food, you may experience vomiting and diarrhoea. You can also suffer from red and itchy watering eyes, shortness of breath, stomach ache, swollen lips, tongues, eyes, and face.
Most allergic reactions are mild and can be largely kept under control. But in rare cases, an allergy can lead to a severe reaction called anaphylaxis shock which can be life-threatening. This affects the whole body and usually develops within minutes of exposure to something you’re allergic to.
Signs of anaphylaxis include any of the above symptoms plus swelling of the throat and mouth, difficulty breathing, confusion, collapsing, and losing consciousness. If someone is suffering from these symptoms, call an ambulance immediately. Anaphylaxis is treated with injectable adrenaline, and people considered to be at high risk may be advised to carry an Epipen.
Allergy Intolerance? It’s thought that one or two per cent of adults and five to eight per cent of children have a true food allergy. In a true allergy, the offending substance of food should be avoided entirely, whereas, with intolerance, foods may be tolerated in low amounts. Food intolerance has less serious symptoms, which are often related to the digestive system.
Testing for allergies: Dr. Toor says: “Do not try to test yourself for the allergy. See your doctor, who may carry out patch testing to find out what you might be allergic to, in a controlled way.” He also suggests avoiding the suspected allergy in case of anaphylaxis. Keeping a food diary is one way to help your doctor identify a potential allergy. But he adds that if you suspect it’s an intolerance, there’s no reliable way to confirm this unless it’s lactose intolerance.
Allergies and alternatives: The most common food allergies are reactions to gluten and wheat-containing grains, milk products, eggs, soy, shellfish, peanuts, and tree nuts, but there are many others. Some people cannot tolerate certain fruit vegetables, nuts, and spices due to an allergy to pollen residue left on them. But there are simple food swaps that you can take.
Nuts and seeds: A nut allergy can be extremely severe and likely to cause anaphylaxis. Many products may have come into contact with nuts during manufacturing, so they need to be avoided. Check the labels carefully. Nuts provide good fats and are a great source of protein. If you have nut intolerance, you can supplement your diet with alternatives such as olives, avocado, and seeds, all of which contain good fats.
Diary: Allergy or intolerance to dairy products may leave you deficient in important nutrients. Milk contains Vitamin B12, magnesium, phosphorus, and calcium, which plays a vital role in building and maintaining strong bones and teeth. Adults need up to 100mg of calcium per day. This can be achieved by eating whole grains, pulses, and leafy green vegetables. Look out for foods fortified with calcium. It is also vital to receive enough vitamin D which plays a key role in transporting calcium to your bones.
Eggs: Eggs are full of nutrients and vitamins, including iron, biotin, folacin, riboflavin, vitamins A, D, E B12, and are an excellent source of protein. A balanced diet with fewer meats, poultry, and fish can help to make up for the loss in protein along with legumes and dairy. Eat plenty of whole-foods, fruits, vegetables, and leafy greens and enriched rains for essential nutrients and vitamins.
Fish and shellfish: These provide Omega-3 fat which keeps the heart-healthy. Fish also contains vitamin D, and shellfish provide selenium, zinc, iodine, and copper. If you are allergic it will be to certain types, so choose the others to enjoy those benefits. Avoid fish supplements. Eat walnuts, flaxseeds, and rapeseed oil which contains Mega-3.
Wheat: When removing wheat from your diet, make sure that there are still enough fibre and calories, as well as vitamins and minerals such as B1, B3, iron, calcium, which are used to fortify wheat flour. Avoid processed products marketed as gluten-free, which tend to be high in sugar and additives. Instead, eat naturally gluten-free nutritious foods. Potatoes, rice, and porridge are all wheat-free alternatives.
Soy: Soy products are a good source of protein. Soy can be replaced by lentils, beans, or eggs. Be careful to check labels on vegetarian foods as they often include soy protein. Meat, fish poultry, and dairy products are good protein sources for non-veggies.