Food allergies: according to the latest data from the EEACI – European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology – they are increasingly widespread and constantly increasing. The reason could be found on the one hand in the ability to make better diagnoses , thus identifying more cases than in the past, and on the other hand in the environmental changes that have favored the incidence of such allergies.
In fact, the triggers seem to be different : smoking, a sedentary lifestyle and, as far as nutrition is concerned, the lower consumption of fresh foods would cause a lower intake of the antioxidants contained in them.
What are food allergies?
Food allergy is a reaction of the immune system that occurs after consuming a certain food.
Allergy indicates a condition in which a person’s immune system reacts abnormally by producing antibodies to certain substances considered harmful, which for most people are completely harmless. Food allergy, in particular, is a reaction of the immune system to a certain food, perceived by the body as harmful: even a small amount of the allergenic food can trigger the reaction, which can manifest itself with digestive problems, hives, swelling. The severity of allergies varies from person to person and can range from mild irritation to anaphylaxis (severe, potentially life-threatening allergic reaction). Among the most common food allergies are those to crustaceans, nuts, fish, eggs, milk
Food allergies and intolerances: what’s the difference?
Food intolerances are part of a larger group of disorders defined as adverse reactions to food.
We talk about food intolerance, rather than allergy, when the reaction is not caused by the immune system.
On the other hand, when it is an allergic reaction it means that the immune system produces antibodies against a harmless substance, present in food (or in the environment), as if it were pathogenic.
The nutritionist’s advice
A negative reaction to food is often mistaken for an allergy, but it could be an intolerance.
Symptoms : Intolerances have symptoms similar to those of allergies, ie nausea, diarrhea, stomach cramps.
Action : allergies act on the immune system, intolerances involve the metabolism.
Substances : intolerances generally concern lactose, gluten or sulphites.
What to do : allergy sufferers must eliminate all the offending food , while intolerant people can tolerate small quantities of the food or component in question.
Individuals sensitive to gluten or sulphite are an exception.
Food allergies: gluten, lactose and tests to do
The safest test for diagnosing lactose intolerance is the H2 Breath Test , which evaluates the presence of hydrogen in the breath before and after the administration of 50 grams of lactose. 9 air samples are taken, obtained by blowing the patient into a bag at regular intervals (approximately every 20 minutes), for approximately 3 hours.
On the other hand, to diagnose gluten intolerance , a blood sample is sufficient to check the dosage of IgG and IgA antibodies , i.e. Anti-Transglutaminase Antibodies and Anti-Gliadin Antibodies.
Doctors and specialists underlines how any food could be a potential allergen for the body, but in the majority of cases allergic reactions are triggered by a group of 7 foods represented by:
- cow milk
- peanuts or other nuts
According to specialists,one of the reason of food allergies is that we consume these foods in greater quantities than in the past.
Allergies to nickel: foods to eliminate
For nickel intolerance, you have to be sure of this through very valid tests ( patch tests ).
The foods that contain the most are:
Then there are legumes, soy and whole grains because it is present in the soil where these foods grow.
In fact, many plant-based foods have nickel right for the soil. Even the tomatoes and canned products have nickel, just think of the tuna.
Always check with your doctor that you are intolerant.
Food allergies: symptoms based on age
It depends on the age. In infants, they usually present with:
- atopic eczema
- continuous vomiting
- slowing or stopping of growth.
Instead, in young people and adults there are fairly immediate symptoms such as:
- swelling of the lips
- sense of occlusion in the throat
- skin symptoms
- in severe cases breathing difficulties.
There are tests, called provocation tests , carried out in medical facilities. They give potentially allergic subjects small amounts of the different food groups to check the body’s reactions.
Those most at risk
It is the pediatric subjects who are most exposed.
The latest data speak of 250 thousand preschool children who in Italy are affected by food allergies.
Furthermore, children who have an allergic relative have a 50% higher risk of contracting allergies. But teenagers also don’t seem to be immune. One of the causes is smoking, which causes irreversible damage to the DNA of young smokers, capable of being transmitted to future children who could more easily become allergic subjects.
An important difference in age groups is that milk and egg allergies rarely occur in children and adults, while it is easier to find individuals allergic to pollen, whose molecules may be present in uncooked fruits and vegetables.
Food allergies: can they be prevented?
Unfortunately, preventing food allergies is very difficult: certainly a healthy lifestyle made up of motion and life in the open air, and a balanced diet can help as they strengthen the immune system.
New mothers have a fundamental role is also played by breastfeeding, since breast milk is able to stimulate and modify the body’s immune responses.
One of the most frequent advice is to breastfeed exclusively up to the 6th month to prevent or at least limit the manifestation of one of the most common food allergies in the first years of life.
For example, allergies to cow’s milk proteins that today in Italy affect about 100,000 preschool children.
Food allergies: can they be cured?
Specialists in food allergies answer can reassure you: “food allergy is the only allergy from which you can completely recover.
If diagnosed correctly, it is possible to recover from allergies to eggs, milk and wheat in an age between 3-5-7 years (depending on the intensity of the individual), while those to kiwifruit, dried fruit, fish and crustaceans tend to be more persistent.