Many people experience certain reactions to food and beverages. Most of these are food sensitivities that lead to gas, headache or loose bowels, which are often due to a lack of enzymes that metabolize food properly. However, other people experience immune reactions to specific foods, which can cause immediate effects that can range from mild rashes to life-threatening anaphylactic reactions.
Here we discuss common food allergies which you can avoid.
8 Common Food Allergies
Any food can cause an allergic reaction, but there are eight common types of food that cause 90% of all allergic reactions related to food. These include the following:
Among babies and children, cow's milk is the most common food that causes allergic reactions. It is estimated that about 2.5% of young children are allergic to milk, and most of them develop reactions to milk before they reach their first birthday. Many eventually outgrow their milk allergy; however, it may persist in those who develop high levels of antibodies in the blood.
Studies show that children who have milk allergy are at risk of developing allergic reactions even to other foods such as eggs, soy, and peanuts. They are also more likely to develop atopic diseases like allergic rhinitis, asthma, and eczema.
- People who are allergic to cow milk are also advised to avoid milk from other animals such as goats.
- Avoid Kosher dairy with a “D” or a circled “U” or “K” on the product label, which indicates it contains milk protein.
- Kosher milk labeled “pareve” is supposed to be milk-free, but some may contain a small amount of milk protein which may cause allergic reactions.
Allergic reaction to eggs is more common among children, but many will outgrow it by the time they are three years old. Although cooking can eliminate some allergens, some people still react to either raw or cooked eggs.
Some people who experience reactions to egg are also allergic to bird meat (chicken or turkey)—a condition known as bird-egg syndrome.
Note: People who are allergic to chicken egg should likewise avoid eggs from ducks, turkey, quail or goose to prevent cross-reactions.
A peanut allergy is relatively rare, but is usually a lifelong condition that is often serious. An accidental exposure to even traces of peanuts may result in a life-threatening allergic reaction (anaphylaxis). Although casual contact (touching) may not trigger serious reactions, inhaling peanut particles or contacting with the mouth or eyes can be dangerous. People with peanut allergy are also advised to avoid other tree nuts and other products containing these.
- Many restaurants prepare foods containing peanuts and other tree nuts, including Asian, African, and Mexican restaurants, ice cream shops and bakeries.
- Ask your doctor if you should avoid foods cooked with refined peanut oil which the FDA has exempted from being labeled as an allergen.
- A cross-reaction between peanuts and another legume called lupine may occur.
- Arachis oil is also known as peanut oil.
- Be careful about eating sunflower seed butter or soy nut butter which is often produced by using shared equipment in companies manufacturing other tree nut products.
- Ask your contractor about the use of peanut hulls in compost used for dressing the lawn, so you can avoid it if possible.
4. Tree Nuts
Tree nut allergy is a lifelong condition, and less than 10% of children outgrow it. Younger siblings are at high risk of developing reaction for tree nuts, so ask your doctor if they need to be tested.
Common tree nuts include walnut, hazelnut, almond, pistachio, Brazil and cashew nuts. These are different from peanuts, which are legumes, or seeds like sesame and sunflower seeds. People who are allergic to one type of nut may experience cross-contact with peanuts, and these must be avoided.
- If you are allergic to tree nuts, ask your doctor about eating these uncommon tree nuts: coconut, beechnut, ginkgo, butternut, hickory, shea nut, chinquapin, pili nut, and lychee nut.
- Avoid products that contain tree nut oils, such as lotions, soaps and hair care products.
- Many ethnic restaurants, ice cream shops and bakeries where tree nuts are commonly used should be best avoided.
- Avoid using natural extracts (e.g. almond extract).
- Nutmeg, butternut squash and water chestnuts are not nuts.
- Argan oil from argan tree nut rarely causes allergic reactions.
- People who are allergic to cashew must avoid using pink peppercorn (or rose pepper, Brazilian pepper, Christmas berry).
Finned fish, such as tuna, salmon and halibut, are the most common kinds of fish that can trigger severe allergic reaction. Most people who are allergic to one kind of fish also experience allergic reactions to other fish. Ask your doctor to test you if you want to eat other types of fish. Yet, finned fish are not related to shellfish, so if you are allergic to one, it does not mean that are also allergic to the other.
- Avoid cooking areas where you may contact fish protein from steam.
- Avoid eating in seafood restaurants.
- Non-seafood items in the menu may have cross-contact with fish.
- Avoid eating anchovies and fish sticks.
- Ask your doctor to test you for allergies to different types of fish and shellfish to be sure about what you need to avoid.
- Avoid other foods that may contain fish protein, such as fish gelatin and fish oil.
- Carrageenan is an alga that is a commonly used ingredient for many foods. It is not fish and is considered safe for people with food allergies.
Shellfish are of two kinds: crustacea (shrimps, crabs and lobsters) and mollusks (clams, oysters, mussels and scallops). Allergic reactions to crustaceans tend to be more severe. If you have one type of shellfish allergy, consult your doctor about eating other types of shellfish.To prevent allergic reactions, avoid eating or even touching all shellfish and other shellfish products. Avoid going to areas where shellfish are being marketed or cooked.
- Avoid eating in seafood restaurants where cross-contact is possible, even if you do not order shellfish.
- Avoid eating in Asian restaurants where they use fish sauce to flavor their dishes.
- Avoid cooking areas where shellfish protein may become airborne in steam.
Allergy to soybean is common among babies and young children, but it is often outgrown by the age of three. Although soybeans are members of the legume family, being allergic to them does not necessarily mean you are allergic to other legumes, including peanuts.
Soybeans are commonly used in various processed food products, and eliminating all of these foods may result in dietary deficiencies. Ask a dietitian for guidance in planning for a balanced diet.
- Highly refined soybean oil is not considered an allergen by the FDA. Ask your doctor if you should avoid soybean oil.
- Avoid Asian cuisines which commonly use soy as an ingredient.
Wheat allergy is very common among children but usually can be outgrown around the age of three. Being the nation's main grain product, it is a common part of the diet and an ingredient often used in baked products. People who are allergic to wheat can eat foods with other types of grains, such as corn, rice, amaranth, barley, oat, rye, quinoa and tapioca. For wheat-free baking, try to use a combination of flours that will give a suitable texture to the baked product.
- Avoid country-style wreaths which are often decorated with products made of wheat.
- Avoid Asian dishes that use wheat flour to make foods that look like pork, beef and shrimp.
- Buckwheat and wheat are not related.
Watch this video to learn tips on how to handle food allergies naturally: