Nutritionist’s top tips for mindful living with food allergies
May is Food Allergy Awareness Month. It is estimated that approximately 32 million Americans, 5.6 million of whom are children, have food allergies. This means that about 10.8% of the adult population in the U.S. has some form of food allergies. Unfortunately, according to research, the incidence of food allergies is rising. The cause is considered to be several factors including pesticides, GMOs, chemical additives and environmental pollutants, all resulting in weakened immunity and unhealthy digestion. Typically, food allergies are not dangerous, resulting in mild skin or digestive issues.
The most common food allergies are eight in number: milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat and soybean. Recently a ninth was added, sesame. The FDA states 90 percent of all allergic reactions stem from the above eight foods and their derivatives.
Symptoms of a food allergy vary widely from mild to life-threatening. Most common are skin reactions including itching or hives, and digestive problems such as stomach aches or diarrhea. The most feared reaction is anaphylaxis where a reaction can occur within seconds or minutes of ingesting your allergen. The severe symptoms of anaphylaxis include lip swelling, nausea, vomiting, difficulty breathing or shock. It can result in death. Epinephrine is the required treatment (EpiPen).
The reaction can occur within seconds or minutes of exposure to an allergen. Symptoms include a skin rash, nausea, vomiting, difficulty breathing and shock. If not treated right away, usually with epinephrine, it can result in unconsciousness or death.
Here are Dr. Vikki Petersen’s top 5 tips for managing and living with food allergies for yourself or loved ones:
Tip #1: Read labels carefully
By law, the eight most common food allergens must be listed on food labels. Take the time to read labels carefully and educate yourself on the synonyms for your allergy. E.g. Casein is a dairy product. Couscous is wheat. There are many more examples. You can get good at spotting these synonyms so as to keep you and your loved ones safe.
Tip #2: Speak up and ask questions
When eating in a restaurant or at a friend’s home, don’t be shy about asking questions regarding food ingredients and how items are prepared. Will your food come into contact with a possible allergen? It is hard on your health to get exposed to an allergen and asking questions can save you from feeling terrible.
Tip #3: Always be prepared and have medicine on hand
Wear a medical ID bracelet and have your medication on hand if you’re prone to significant reactions. For many people, this is an epi-pen. There are natural antihistamines as well, and over-the-counter medicines (anti-histamines) to treat allergic reactions, but those should only be used if your reactions are of the milder form.
Tip #4: Get a proper diagnosis
While 10% of the population suffers from food allergies, double that number of people think they have food allergies. Why is this? It can be difficult to distinguish a food allergy from a food sensitivity when you are the one suffering. Both should be taken seriously, but it is important to know the difference. Scratch testing on the skin is not highly accurate for food allergies. It’s best to get an IgE blood test. Food sensitivities can create a wide array of symptoms, but not anaphylaxis, like an allergic reaction.
Dr. Vikki Peterson is a clinical nutritionist, chiropractor and certified functional medicine practitioner. To reach Dr. Peterson’s publicist, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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