Food allergies plague approximately 15 million Americans, and according to a CDC study released in 2013, food allergies among children increased by nearly 50% between 1997 and 2011. There are actually just 7 food allergens that cause most of this distress: Wheat, Soy, Dairy, Corn, Eggs, Peanuts/Tree Nuts and Shellfish.
Reactions to nuts and shellfish account for most cases of allergic anaphylaxis and related ER visits, but they aren’t necessarily the most common allergens. The other 5 offenders listed above are much more common, and while the symptoms can be mild, they can also be pervasive.
Most Common Symptoms of a Food Allergy
A food allergy or sensitivity can cause a range of symptoms from anaphylaxis on the extreme end, to foggy-headedness on the low end. Here are some of the most common symptoms to look for if you want to identify a food allergy:
What IS A Food Allergy?
A food allergy is actually the formation of an Antigen-Antibody complex in the blood stream which stimulates an overactive immune response. It is this hyperactive immune response that you feel when you get itchy, puffy, nauseated and tired.
When everything else in your body is going smoothly, it actually takes two weeks for your body to naturally eliminate an allergen, meaning you can still experience symptoms for 2 weeks even if you aren’t exposed to the allergen anymore. If the specific allergen in question is Gluten (Wheat), it can take as many as 4 weeks to clear.
How To Identify A Food Allergy
There are many ways to pinpoint or identify a food allergy. Symptoms are the first clue that something may be amiss, and then it is time to pursue testing. Food allergen identification can be done by a Naturopath or Allergist through a blood test and/or scratch test to see what you are allergic to. While blood tests are accurate, it is important to note that food sensitivities can bear all the same symptoms as a food allergy but not create a strong enough blood-mediated response to show up in a blood test.
If you get a blood test and scratch test and identify allergens but find that even when you eliminate these allergens from your life and environment, you are still having symptoms a month later, it may be time to pursue an Elimination Diet.
An Elimination Diet is a food allergy identification technique that can be done at home, on your own any time. It is not fun, there is no ideal time to do one, but it gives you a crystal clear picture of what you react to dietarily and how you react to it. Full PDF instructions for an elimination diet can be downloaded below.
It takes approximately a month to complete and it involves eating a very simple anti-allergenic and anti-inflammatory diet for 2-4 weeks and then testing yourself for sensitivities by reintroducing suspect allergenic foods in a systematic manner while you watch for symptoms.
When you directly experience a food allergy or sensitivity for yourself you know exactly what causes the symptoms and you can consciously choose to eat that food and suffer or not eat that food and feel better, and if you choose to indulge you know exactly how long the symptoms will last as well.
I often recommend Elimination Diets in my clinic because I feel they give you a lot of control over your symptoms as well as a clear understanding of your food choices. Furthermore, once you’ve done it you have the information. Even if nothing shows up through an Elimination Diet, at least you know that none of these dietary factors are in play and you don’t have to worry about allergenic foods contributing to your symptoms.
Until Next Time,
Rebecca M H Kitzerow is a Licensed Acupuncturist practicing in La Center, Washington. With over a decade of experience she has won 10 Nattie consumer choice awards from Natural Awakenings Magazine since 2014.