The Truth About Food Allergies For Athletes
Published May 01, 2014 01:19
What Is A Food Allergy?
A food allergy is the body's adverse response to a particular food or ingredient - usually a protein. A true allergy is always accompanied by an immune response that may or may not involve an antibody known as IgE. Adverse responses to foods that do not involve the immune system are known as intolerances. For example, if you are lactose intolerant, your symptoms are due to a decrease in the production of an enzyme called lactase needed to break down the sugar in milk (NIH, 2010). While intolerances may result in undesirable physical symptoms, they are not true food allergies.
The BIG Eight
Milk, eggs, wheat, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish
These eight foods account for 90% of food allergy reactions
How Is A Food Allergy Diagnosed?
Attempting to diagnose or treat a food allergy without the help of a board-certified allergist (MD) may cause you to needlessly limit your diet. In addition to the inconvenience and stress often caused by overly-restrictive eating patterns, avoiding certain categories of food or ingredients can also lead to poor nutrition.
Allergists are not always able to identify a food allergy by tests alone. However, some versions of these tests - when combined with an accurate medical history and food symptom diary - are commonly used*:
• Skin prick test
• Blood test
• Oral food challenge
• Trial elimination diet
Despite the guidelines for the diagnosis and management of food allergies established by the National Institutes of Health, some wellness practitioners still rely on tests that have not been scientifically proven to be effective. Using these untested, and often expensive, tests may lead to false diagnoses. Unnecessary strict avoidance diets can also rob you of the simple enjoyment of eating a wide variety of healthful and tasty foods. The following tests are NOT RECOMMENDED for the diagnosis of food allergies and NOT considered medically proven and accurate (NIH, 2010):
|Applied Kinesiology (muscle testing)||Basophil histamine release/activation|
|Cytotoxicity testing||Lymphocyte stimulation|
|Electrodermal test (vega testing)||Facial thermography|
|Natural Elimination of Allergy treatment||Gastric juice analysis|
|IgG/IgG4 testing||Endoscopic allergen provocation|
|Hair analysis||Provocation neutralization|
|Pulse testing||Mediator release assay (LEAP diet)|
Food Allergy Symptoms
Symptoms may occur after eating, inhaling, or merely coming into contact with a food to which you are allergic. Typically appearing within minutes to several hours after exposure, mild symptoms may include one or more of the following*:
• Hives (reddish, swollen, itchy areas on the skin)
• Eczema (a persistent dry, itchy rash)
• Redness of the skin or around the eyes
• Itchy mouth or ear canal
• Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
• Stomach pain
• Nasal congestion or a runny nose
• Sneezing or slight, dry cough
• Uterine contractions
Severe symptoms may include obstructive swelling of the lips, tongue, and/or throat; trouble swallowing, shortness of breath or wheezing, turning blue, feeling faint or passing out, loss of consciousness, chest pain, and a weak pulse, etc.
What to Do If You Think you Have a Food Allergy: If you think you are suffering with a food allergy speak with your primary health care provider and a dietitian to determine what accurate allergy testing and dietary changes you may need to do to address your possible medical condition.
*Source: Food Allergy Research and Education (www.foodallegy.org)
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