Food Proteins Called Allergens Causes Food Allergies

By | March 5, 2010

Food allergy is an unusual response to a food generated by body’s immune system. Food allergies are caused when the immune system sets up an attack on specific proteins in certain food types.

Mechanism Of Food Allergy:
The allergens in food are proteins that are responsible for provoking an allergic reaction. They generally can withstand the heat of cooking, the acid present in the stomach, and the intestinal digestive enzymes. So, the allergens can easily survive to pass over the gastrointestinal lining, enter into the bloodstream, and reach the target organs. This results in allergic reactions all over the body. The mechanism of food allergy is associated with immune system and heredity.

Food allergy is a hypersensitivity reaction, which means an allergic reaction due to allergen is caused, when a person is exposed to that allergen previously. In the initial exposure, allergen provokes lymphocytes (particular white blood cells) to generate the IgE (immunoglobulin E) antibody, which is unique for the allergen. Then this IgE is released and gets attached to the surface of the mast cell (specific cell that present in all tissues) present in different tissues of the body (mostly on tissues of nose and throat, lungs, skin, and gastrointestinal tract). When the person eats the food next time, its allergen increases and sharpens particular IgE antibody on the surface of the mast cells and provokes the cells to release chemicals like histamine. These chemicals (depending on tissues) cause the symptoms of food allergy.

Symptoms Of Food Allergy:
All symptoms of food allergy will appear within a few minutes to an hour after taking food. Food allergies are mostly associated with the skin, the stomach and intestines (digestive tract), and the mouth and airways (respiratory system).

  • Skin symptoms of food allergies are hives, itchy, scaly rash called eczema, redness or flushing and swelling.
  • Digestive symptoms of food allergies are stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
  • Common respiratory symptoms of food allergies are sneezing, coughing, runny nose, wheezing, closing of the throat, itchy, watery eyes.
  • Life threatening reaction of food allergy is Anaphylaxis, which will affect many parts of the body simultaneously and may cause death.
  • Other symptoms of food allergies are problem in breathing, fall of blood pressure, and unconsciousness.

People sometimes confuse food allergies with food intolerance, as they both have same symptoms. Food intolerance is the inability to thoroughly break down food into digestible elements and caused due to insufficient or inadequate quantity of digestive enzymes. The symptoms of food intolerance are indigestion, loose stools, gas, burping, headache, and nervousness.

Causes Of Food Allergies:
Food allergies can be caused due to many food items. Eight foods that are recognized as the most common food allergies are peanuts and tree nuts, fish and shellfish, milk and eggs, soy, and wheat. These are top eight most common food allergies contributed to 90% of all the food allergies that are diagnosed today. Researchers have recognized that some people who suffer from hay fever (allergic reaction to pollen) symptoms also have an allergic reaction towards specific food items.

Treatment For Food Allergies:

  • Avoiding allergic food is usually the best option for most of the common food allergies. A person must read food labels to avoid allergic food.
  • Medications and supplements can be used to reduce food allergy symptoms.
  • Rotation diets are essential for patients who suffer from multiple allergies.
  • Vitamin C must be consumed more as it is a common anti-allergy supplement.
  • Immunotherapy can also be utilized to treat food allergies by adjusting the immune response to allergenic foods.

The diagnosis of food allergy is conducted with a complete history of the patient’s diet diary or an elimination diet. Most of the types of food allergies in adults are different from those in children. People who suffer from food allergies should identify and stop using them because usually the symptoms may be mild and not severe. But sometimes these reactions can result in devastating illness and in some instances can lead to death.

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