On a hot day there’s nothing more refreshing than a delicious ice cream cone. Sadly, my stomach would disagree. I suffer from lactose intolerance, a common food allergy to dairy, experienced by many people, especially those of Asian descent.
Working as a Private Chef in New York for highly discerning clients, I am especially diligent about meeting the specific needs of every person. So in order to cook allergy-friendly foods that don’t compromise on taste or flavor, I became highly educated on the subject. Here’s what every food allergy sufferer (and those who cook for them) should know.
What is a food allergy and what causes it? The body’s immune system is normally designed to defend against potentially harmful substances, such as bacteria, viruses and toxins. However, some people experience an immune response triggered by a substance that is generally harmless, such as a specific food. In a true food allergy, a particular food can trigger your body to produce immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies, which, in turn, set off the body’s immune system to release histamine and other chemicals into your blood stream. Those chemicals cause the body to experience allergic reactions so ordinarily innocent foods can have disastrous, sometimes fatal, implications. Symptoms can range from mild gastrointestinal discomfort to face and throat swelling and sometimes, anaphylaxis which can be fatal.
Symptoms commonly begin immediately or usually within two hours after eating. If a person experiences these symptoms shortly after eating a specific food, he/she may have a food allergy. Key symptoms include hives, hoarse voice, and wheezing are very significant indications. Other notable symptoms that may occur include:
- Abdominal pain
- Difficulty swallowing
- Itching of the mouth, throat, eyes, skin, or any area
- Light-headedness or fainting
- Nasal congestion
- Runny nose
- Swelling (angioedema), especially of the eyelids, face, lips, and tongue
- Shortness of breath
- Stomach cramps
- Bloating and gas
Symptoms of oral allergy syndrome:
- Itchy lips, tongue, and throat
- Swollen lips (sometimes)
The most common treatment for food allergies is to avoid the food culprit altogether.
Other treatments include:
- Antihistamines: Over-the-counter medication (combats the histamines) to ease the symptoms of minor food allergic reactions.
- Injectable Epinephrine: (Epi-Pen) For the treatment of severe food allergies. Anyone diagnosed with a food allergy should carry (and know how to use) injectable epinephrine at all times. For any type of serious or whole-body reaction (even hives) after eating the offending food, it is advised to inject the epinephrine and seek immediate emergency medical attention.
Living without another lick of an ice cream cone or bite of a peanut can be hard for some to swallow. However; over the years, I’ve come up with several delicious alternatives for food allergy sufferers. See my article: Most Common Food Allergies & What to Eat Instead.
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