There are several different types of allergies, but probably the most common are food allergies. As the name implies, this kind of allergic reaction is triggered when a response takes place after ingesting, or contact with, a specific food which you have been sensitized to. “Sensitized” means that you’ve eaten, or encountered, this particular food previously. After the food has entered the body, your body’s natural defense, the immune system, determines the food to be a harmful foreign substance and launches a defensive attack against the protein. Your body produces a specific kind of antibody called immunoglobulin E to fight off the proteins. These actions of our body’s immune system are what sets off an allergic response.
The response may range from mild to moderate to very severe, including symptoms such as swelling of the tongue and face, rash or hives, difficulty breathing, runny nose and eyes, stomach pain, bowel disturbances, swelling of the throat, nausea and vomiting, and in rare circumstances can lead to life-threatening collapse (anaphylactic shock).
How to Prevent Food Allergies
Education is the first line of defense in preparing for and managing your allergies to food. Below are a few practical tips to assist you in dealing with food allergies:
1. Plan ahead. If you are able to, write out a list of foods that you can safely tolerate and try to gather some recipes which contain these foods. You might also confer with your dietitian or nutritionist and discuss your food allergies. Ask for any advice regarding special recipes or dietary alternatives that will not trigger your allergy. Additionally, check out your local library for recipes or contact an allergy specialist for more information and suggestions.
2. If you are dining out, call up the hostess or chef beforehand and explain your needs. See if they’ll permit you to supply your own food. If not, maybe they will be willing to adjust the menu for you. Always make it a point to discuss everything beforehand so you will not be tempted to, or accidentally, eat anything you shouldn’t.
3. Bring extra provisions whenever you leave home. It is easy to take longer than you originally planned so having an extra lunch packed or a couple of snacks with you can be a big help. Not just to fend off your hunger, but also to prevent you from stopping at a fast-food joint or restaurant which is selling foods that might touch off your food allergy.
4. It is helpful if you keep a food and symptom journal so when you do have a reaction, you are able to pinpoint what sparked your symptoms. This journal is also helpful when making your list of permissible foods.
5. Ensure you make everybody well aware whenever you have a life-threatening food allergy. That way, you do not have to rely solely on yourself if you find yourself in a spot where you are tempted to consume foods you are hypersensitive to. Also, just in case you inadvertently ingest foods that induce an allergic reaction, there would be somebody available to assist you.
6. Prepare and cook large portions and meals in advance, then freeze them. This ensures you have stores of allowed foods, with the added bonus of not having to cook each day. This will also provide a wider selection of meal choices, as well.
7. If you are traveling abroad, get a few allergy translation cards so you can present them in other countries. Additionally, one of the very first things you had better do in a foreign or unfamiliar location is to check where the closest hospital or doctor is just in case of an emergency.
Serious food allergies should never be taken lightly. The costs of being complacent can be very high, even fatal. But following these simple tips should provide you with a great start to successfully living your food allergies. Happy and SAFE eating!