Food Allergies and Sensitivities
• Allergies, Food
• Elimination Diet, Hypoallergenic Infant Formula
A food allergy is defined as an abnormal immune reaction caused by the ingestion of a food or food additive. The most dramatic form of food allergy reaction occurs within minutes, usually in response to certain foods such as shellfish, peanuts, or strawberries. The effects are similar to those of a bee sting allergy, involving hives, itching, swelling in the throat, and difficulty breathing; this immediate type of allergic reaction can be life-threatening.
Other food allergy reactions are more delayed, causing relatively subtle symptoms over days or weeks.
Some food allergy-like reactions do not actually involve the immune system. These are termed food sensitivities (or food intolerance). In most cases, the cause of such sensitivities is unknown.
Delayed-type food allergies and sensitivities might play a role in many diseases, including
Conventional treatment for immediate-type food allergy reactions includes desensitization (allergy shots), emergency epinephrine (adrenaline) kits for self-injection, and the antihistamine diphenhydramine (Benadryl).
Delayed-type food allergies are much more difficult to identify and treat. Although skin and blood tests are sometimes used, their reliability is questionable.
Although it is the most accurate way of determining food allergies, the double-blind food challenge is still mostly used in research. The elimination diet with food challenges (described below) is the most common technique in use.
Another conventional approach for delayed-type food allergies is oral cromolyn (a drug sometimes used in an inhaled form for treating asthma and other allergic illnesses).
Principal Proposed Natural Treatments
There are no well-documented natural treatments for food allergies. The most obvious approach would be to remove known allergenic foods from the diet. Some alternative practitioners offer lab tests to identify such allergens. However, as described above, no lab tests have been proven accurate for this purpose.
The elimination diet is another approach for identifying allergenic foods. This method involves starting with a highly restricted diet consisting only of foods that are seldom allergenic, such as rice, yams, and turkey. If dietary restriction leads to resolution or improvement of symptoms, foods are then reintroduced one by one to see which, if any, will trigger reactions. 23
Still another method involves simply eliminating the most common allergens. Cow's milk protein intolerance is thought to be the most common childhood allergy,
In hopes of
food allergies and diseases related to them, some authorities recommend that pregnant and breastfeeding mothers as well as their children should avoid allergenic foods.
Other Proposed Treatments for Food Allergies and Sensitivities
Digestive enzymes such as bromelain
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Last reviewed April 2009 by EBSCO CAM Review Board
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