Do You Have Food Allergies? - Caroline Sutherland
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Do You Have Food Allergies?

Do You Have Food Allergies?

New research suggests Americans may be over-diagnosing themselves with food allergies. A study published in the medical journal JAMA estimates that nearly 19 percent of adults think they have food allergies, but less than 11 percent actually do.

Experts say the discrepancy likely comes from misuse of terminology.

“Most people when they say they have an allergy, it’s likely an intolerance,” Dr. Tania Elliott, an allergist with NYU Langone Health, told “CBS This Morning.” “They have a headache. They don’t feel well. They get bloated. They have stomach discomfort.”

In reality, an actual allergic reaction can be life-threatening and could require medical intervention. Common food allergies are: fish, shellfish and nuts.

“Ninety-percent of the time you’re going to have skin symptoms,” Elliott said. “Hives, swelling, itching, redness all caused by a chemical called histamine which is what’s released from allergy cells when an allergic reaction occurs.”

Milder allergies may not show noticeable symptoms for several hours. However, more dangerous allergies can lead to anaphylaxis, a severe and sudden reaction that can occur within minutes of exposure. If not treated quickly, anaphylaxis can lead to death.

In my experience in the food allergy business for over thirty years, people know when they are reacting to certain foods. How do you determine which foods cause which reactions or symptoms? Easy – isolate the half-dozen potentially “offending” foods. Consume them one at a time, each food, each day, on an empty stomach, wait 20 minutes and note the reaction. Then avoid that food for 3-4 weeks and “challenge test” it again. Food sensitivities stem from multiple exposures to common foods. Solution – rotate foods (especially grains) and eat from a wide variety of foods. The most common food sensitivities are to wheat flour and to cow dairy products. Try alternative milks such a coconut milk or nut milk and avoid glutenous grains using rice, millet and quinoa instead. Even though testing is available, it is expensive and often inaccurate.