Living with Food Allergies

Food allergies occur when the immune system has an abnormal response to a food particle and resulting symptoms can range from mildly inconvenient to life threatening for those affected by it. So why do certain people react abnormally to certain types of food, but others do not? Simply put, the body’s immune system is responding to this food as if it were a threat.

According to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, it’s a two-step process:

  1. The first time you’re exposed to a food allergen, your immune system produces a specific type of antibody (IgE, or immunoglobin E) to that allergen. These IgE antibodies circulate through the blood, attaching themselves to types of immune cells called basophils (found in the blood and some tissues) and mast cells (found in all body tissues).
  1. The second time you’re exposed to the allergen, it binds to the same IgE antibodies that are attached to the basophils and mast tissues. When this happens, these cells are signaled to release histamine and other chemicals, which—depending on the tissue they were released in—will cause mild to severe symptoms that manifest in an allergic reaction.

One of the worst types of allergic reactions to food is anaphylaxis, which often includes hives, swelling of the tongue, lips, or eyes, difficulty breathing, palpitations, and even unconsciousness. This is one of the most difficult aspects of dealing with a food allergy, and it’s important to prepare for what to do if you’re exposed to any potentially life threatening allergen. For example, a person with severe peanut allergies may experience a severe reaction not just by eating the food but by touching it, using a product on the skin that contains peanut, or breathing in peanut dust.

Eight foods are responsible for about 90 percent of food-related allergic reactions in the United States: peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs, soy, wheat, fish, and shellfish. Although some food allergies can be revealed through blood or skin prick testing, food challenge tests are the most effective method.

If you think you may have a food allergy, it’s important to receive professional allergy testing from a specialist. ZendyHealth works with board certified providers who offer allergy testing. You do not need a prescription to get an allergy test – and with ZendyHealth, allergy testing can be done inexpensively with top providers near you.

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