Food allergies are on the rise. According to Food Allergy Research and Education, up to 15 million Americans have food allergies. But what is a food allergy exactly and how do you know if you have one? We will get to that in today’s blog post.
With gluten free, dairy free, nut free, and other “free” options on the marketplace today it can cause one to wonder if he or she should be concerned with certain food products. In fact, many individuals go gluten free without even knowing what gluten is or if they are allergic (or intolerant). So, to clear up any confusion, we are going to dive a little deeper into the world of food allergies and intolerances.
The simplest definition of food allergy is an immune system reaction that occurs after eating a specific food. Your immune system thinks of the food as a threat and attacks it. Reactions can be moderate (digestive issues) to severe (anaphylaxis). Food intolerance, on the other hand, is non-allergic hypersensitivity to a certain food. Digestive issues are usually the only sign or symptom one with food intolerance would experience. Take dairy for instance, many individuals have lactose intolerance and don’t feel that great after drinking milk. However, if they drink milk they won’t have a severe allergic reaction so the individual can tend to have lactose in small amounts. If an individual with a dairy allergy were to drink milk, a more severe reaction could take place so he/she stays away from lactose altogether.
The top 8 allergens contribute to 90% of food allergies in the United States. These include:
- Tree nuts
If you know you have a food allergy, you either have already become a good label reader or need to. The food label can help you avoid a reaction you don’t want. For instance, if you have a peanut allergy, you’ll want to look for a statement on the label similar to this, “Made in a peanut free facility.” This picture is what you could also see on a food label. These statements are usually right next to or below the food label itself.