Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Get the Facts on Food Allergies

Have you heard the words, “food allergy” and “food intolerance” but are unsure what the difference between them is? A food allergy occurs when the immune system mistakenly targets a harmless food protein, also known as an allergen, as a threat and attacks it. However, food intolerances do not involve the immune system, and result gastrointestinal distress. An example of a food intolerance is lactose intolerance, which occurs when a person does not produce enough of the lactase enzyme to digest the lactose found in dairy products.

According to the Food Allergy Research and Education organization, every 3 minutes a food allergy sends an individual to the emergency room. Most importantly, this statistic shows the increased need for our generation to be aware of the signs and symptoms of food allergies and food intolerances. So what are they?

Signs and Symptoms
Food Allergy
Food Intolerance
·         Hives (reddish, itchy areas on the skin)
·         Redness of the skin or around the eyes
·         Itchy mouth or ear canal
·         Nausea or vomiting
·         Stomach pain
·         Nasal congestion
·         Obstructive swelling of the lips, tongue, and/or throat
·         Trouble swallowing
·         Shortness of breath or wheezing
·         Turning blue
·         Feeling faint or confused
·         Loss of consciousness
·         Chest pain
·         Anaphylaxis
·         Gas, cramps, or bloating
·         Heartburn
·         Headaches
·         Irritability or nervousness
·         Nausea
·         Stomach pain
·         Diarrhea
·         Vomiting

A potentially life-threating condition that can be caused by a food allergic reaction is anaphylaxis. During anaphylaxis, allergic symptoms can affect several areas of the body and may threaten breathing and blood circulation. To reverse the symptoms, a medication called epinephrine (adrenaline) must be injected. A delay in providing the epinephrine can result in death in as little as 30 minutes.

Did you know that over the last 15 years, food allergies have increased by 50%, with unknown causes? The top 8 food allergens, which cause about 90% of reactions, are peanuts, tree nuts (such as walnuts, pecans and almonds), fish, shellfish, milk, eggs, soy, and wheat. The only treatment for food allergies is strict avoidance, or elimination, of the problem foods from the diet.

Unfortunately, teens and young adults with food allergies are at the highest risk for fatal food-induced anaphylaxis. During college, individuals are likely to be living on their own for the first time, and are now responsible for making safe and nutritious food choices for themselves. Another concern for young adults with food allergies is dating. For some, it may be uncomfortable to discuss the food allergy with their significant other. But together, the couple will need to create a safe plan for the person with food allergy. For more information about food allergies and dating, watch this video about “The Kissing Study.” 

If you would like to learn more about food allergies and food intolerances, foods that may contain hidden allergen, or more food allergy resources on EIU’s campus, please contact the Nutrition Promotion Coordinator at herc-nutritioned@eiu.edu or 217-581-7786.

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