Allergies, people have them, but what are they really? And what are the most common food allergies?
Even Superman suffered from an allergy; his happened to be to Kryptonite. He was a smart guy, though, and did everything he could to avoid the deadly stuff. It's a fact that just about any food can cause an allergy, but there are less than a dozen foods that make up the majority of complaints. Almost 10% of the children in the U.S. have allergies, but that number falls to about 5% of adults, evidencing that some can outgrow their sensitivities. However, there is some troubling statistical evidence that the percentage of people with all types of allergies is actually increasing. It appears that most allergies are due, at least in part, to genetics, so if you do have these issues, make sure to thank your parents.
Half of the most common food allergies are animal-based, namely fish, especially shellfish, dairy products, and eggs. In this short article, I'm just going to deal with some the most common plant-based culprits, which happen to be peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, and soy products. They can cause symptoms that range from a minor inconvenience to death. Allergies are nothing to sneeze at; they're enough to make you throw up or break-out in hives. Unlike airborne pollens that can cause hay fever in the Spring; every season is allergy season when it's a food allergy, just ask the 15 million Americans that have these food hypersensitivities. What's sobering is the fact that 40% of the children with food allergies will experience a severe or life-threatening reaction at some time.
Food allergies are an abnormal response of the body's immune system primarily to the protein portion of certain foods. The body considers the food an enemy and reacts to defend itself by releasing Histamine or some other chemical that causes inflammation, impacting digestion, breathing, blood pressure, and the tissues. In the most severe cases, it can cause anaphylaxis, where the body goes into shock, and shuts down, putting the life in peril. For this reason, it is essential that people with major food hypersensitivities identify what their personal Kryptonite is and become knowledgeable label readers.
Peanut allergies affect an estimated 4 million people in the U.S. and can be life threatening. To them peanuts are poison.
Tree nuts are the more designer kind of nuts, like Macadamia, Pistachio, Brazil, Cashew, as well as walnuts and almonds, and they are different. Each year, over half of the emergency room visits and 2/3 of the deaths due to anaphylactic shock are caused by nut allergies. A person can be allergic to one kind of nut and not another, so out of an abundance of caution, those with this sensitivity may want to avoid anything that looks like a nut, and, if prescribed, carry an epi-pen (Epinephrine) in case an exposure does occur. There is a percentage of people who may outgrow their peanut allergy as they get into their teens or early twenties, but tree nut allergies are normally considered lifelong.
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Some people are allergic to one or more of the dozens of proteins present in wheat causing an immune reaction, that again may be mild to life-threatening. Not just the wheat in foods, but even in other products like some cosmetics. Celiac Disease is different, in that it is a sensitivity specifically to the gluten found in a number of grains. It causes unpleasant digestive problems that can be very serious and is definitely a curse, and though it is considered life-altering, it is not normally life-threatening.
Proteins found in products containing soybean are a common cause of allergic responses, particularly in children Soybean allergies often manifest with symptoms like rash, itchiness, and even asthma-like breathing difficulties. On the positive side, up to three-quarters of the children will outgrowth this allergy. However, as with all allergens, the best course is avoidance.
As I mentioned at the beginning, any individual can be allergic to anything, so it's important to find out what your own Kryptonite is. Is it one of these common offenders or is it a normally benign, healthy and nutritious food like peaches, bananas, or avocados? So, understand your personal physiology, and what symptoms to watch for. If something happens, be aware that time is of the essence, know where your epi-pen is, and the location of the closest hospital. Let those you associate with the most be aware of any serious allergies that you may have.
The news is not all bad, I have noticed some side effects of allergies that may even be positive; like healthier eating habits, improved shopping skills, and an increased number of meals together at the dinner table.