A little more about food allergies, which are on the rise

Last week, I relayed some info to you from Harvard University Longwood seminars about food intolerance and food allergies. Many times, we ask ourselves the question, “Was it something that I ate?” Unfortunately, many times it was. The reaction to a real food allergy can range from being a nuisance to being deadly. As there is no cure for a food allergy, avoidance is the only way to play it safe.

The Harvard Health Publications notes six proactive strategies that anyone afflicted with food allergies must implement. First, always read the labels of packaged food. The label contains important information about milk protein, byproducts of wheat, nuts or artificial additives. And even though you might have bought the food item before, manufacturers change ingredients all the time so you must read them every time!

In a household where not everyone is following an allergen-free diet, you must be careful in the kitchen to not to cross-contaminate the dishes and preparation surfaces. All dishes must be thoroughly washed in between uses so no one gets something they should not have by accident.

If you go out to eat, you must absolutely let the manager know and the wait staff know about the food allergy. Fast foods are no exception. Ask to see the ingredients and abstain from anything harmful. Harvard experts advise that you make an action plan just in case of an allergic emergency, and wear a medical ID bracelet that lists your allergies. Always carry your medication with you such as an EpiPen or antihistamines: “Never leave home without it!”

Fish and shellfish allergies are the most common adult onset food allergies. About 40 percent of people allergic to fish and about 60 percent of those allergic to shellfish had their first allergic reaction as adults.

And believe it or not, there is a food dependent exercise-induced anaphylaxis, which occurs only when a person exercises within a few hours of eating an allergenic food. The most common foods that trigger this phenomenon are wheat, peanuts, shellfish, soy, tomatoes, corn, beans, rice and some meat.

Neither the exercise nor the food alone triggers the allergic reaction and the researchers note that the exercise needs to be at a moderate to vigorous level for this to happen.

People have noted the dramatic rise in food allergies, food intolerance and digestive illnesses in the past two decades and question whether it is linked to the introduction of GMO soybeans into the U.S. food supply in 1996. Harvard experts say that GMO soy is in many processed foods but there has not yet been any long-term studies that examine how ingesting GMO foods affect humans. Actually, doesn’t that sound a little frightening to you? The most well-known foods that are genetically modified are corn, soybeans, canola, cotton and sugar beets. The FDA, according to the Harvard experts, states that the GMO foods that it has evaluated through its voluntary consultation process are not more likely to cause an allergic reaction than foods from traditional plants. Without long-term studies, I wonder how they know that?

Harvard reports that food allergies are a growing problem throughout the world. Currently around 3 to 7 percent of children have a food allergy which is a 50 percent increase since 1997. A true allergy is caused by the immune system reacting to a specific protein and reacting as though the protein is a threat to the body. All proteins have the potential to be an allergen but in reality only a small percentage of proteins cause an allergic reaction. The proteins identified as allergens are contained in only eight foods. They are milk, peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish, soy, wheat, fish and eggs. I’m looking forward to more research that maybe tells us why allergies are on the rise.

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Jane Riley is certified nutritional adviser, janerileyfitness@gmail.com, (808) 212-1451, www.janerileyfitness.com

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