If you luckily escaped a food allergy as a child, you are not necessarily in the clear. The unfortunate reality is that you can develop food allergies at any point in your life, and those that develop later in life tend to remain troublesome long-term.
Fish and shellfish allergies are among the more likely allergies that develop in adulthood and the mechanisms of late onset allergies appear to be different than those that present earlier in life.
Most cases of later in life allergy onset seem to rely on factors such as cross reactivity to allergens from plant or animals or exercise which triggers an immune system response. Do not even think to tell me that you are allergic to exercise!
There is a syndrome termed Oral Allergy Syndrome that essentially is a reaction of the immune system to a similar protein that could be an allergen. It results in an itchy mouth, scratchy throat or swelling of the tissues of the lips, tongue or throat after eating raw fruit or vegetables or nuts.
This is a problem with adults who may have seasonal allergies such as hay fever, but occurs when these foods are consumed. The reaction is confined to the oral cavity and does not invade the nose or sinuses, and can be avoided by cooking or peeling the triggering fruit or vegetable.
Of course, taking an antihistamine also will blunt the symptoms but better to alter the protein by cooking it or removing it by peeling the offending food.
OK, here we go. There is a food dependent exercise induced anaphylaxis that is a recognizable and clinically distinct form of anaphylaxis in which symptoms only occur when a person exercises within a few hours of ingesting an allergenic food.
The foods most commonly implicated in this syndrome are wheat, peanuts, shellfish, tomatoes, corn, peas, beans, rice and some meats. Neither eating the food or exercising by itself will cause a reaction, but these activities in combination can induce anaphylaxis in sensitive adults.
The exercise is usually of a more vigorous type such as running, playing tennis, dancing and other highly aerobic activities. The people affected demonstrate sudden exhaustion, feeling hot, and itchy and then developing widespread hives. If the allergic reaction intensifies, the person may have difficulty breathing, become nauseous, and may lose consciousness.
People who have had food dependent exercise induced anaphylaxis episodes should avoid the triggering foods, and wait several hours after eating to engage in any kind of high intensity exercise. At the first sign of symptoms, they should immediately stop activity and sit or lie down.
In some cases, this is enough to cause the symptoms to subside. It is also recommended by the Harvard Health Publications that they carry two epinephrine auto-injectors such as EpiPen or TwinJet and to work out with a partner or trainer who is aware of the syndrome and can recognize the early warning signs of the condition and who can assist.
Simply put, allergies are reactions by the body’s immune system to proteins in the environment. You can develop allergies in two fashions. You may be genetically predisposed to certain allergens and secondly you develop sensitivities through being sensitized to allergens. The statistics are that one person in five has some type of allergy and that being allergic tends to be genetically linked.
However, genes alone are not enough to cause allergies. The circumstances of your early childhood influence how likely you are to develop allergies. It seems that first-born children are more likely to develop allergies because their environment is “cleaner” than subsequent children in the family. Exposure to a wide array of germs early in life may dampen the body’s tendency to turn on the allergic response.
Similarly, children who attend day care facilities may be less likely to develop allergies and asthma as they have an increased exposure to germs and can build tolerance. This hygiene hypothesis suggests that insufficient exposure to microbes early in life fails to train the immune system to differentiate between disease causing germs and non-pathogenic allergens.
No one is suggesting that you deliberately expose your children to diseases, but to keep them in a hygiene bubble is not optimal either. American children’s counterparts in less developed countries have higher rates of infectious diseases but lower rates of allergies. It seems a happy medium is the way to go.
Dr. Jane Riley, Ed.D., is a certified personal fitness trainer, nutritional adviser and behavior change specialist. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, 212-8119 cell/text and www.janerileyfitness.com.