• Food allergies impact millions of individuals, making it necessary to understand how to manage them for a healthy and well-rounded lifestyle.

    From navigating and managing common food allergies, and understanding the difference between allergies and intolerances, to recognising common allergy symptoms, expert Abigail Da Cruz, a Registered Dietitian specialising in nutrition management shares her insights with us on this topic.

    What is a food allergy?

    A food allergy occurs when your immune system reacts to a food protein, perceiving it as a threat. This reaction involves the production of antibodies, specifically Immunoglobulin E (IgE) in IgE-mediated reactions. These antibodies trigger the release of chemicals like histamine, which can lead to typical allergy symptoms and, in severe cases, anaphylaxis.

    There are two primary types of allergic reactions to food:

    Immunoglobulin E (IgE) Mediated: This is the most common type of allergic reaction. It involves the release of histamine and other chemicals by IgE antibodies, leading to typical allergy symptoms such as hives, swelling, and respiratory issues. Anaphylaxis, a potentially life-threatening reaction, can also occur.

    Non-Immunoglobulin E (Non-IgE) Mediated: In this type of reaction, other components of the immune system respond against the perceived threat. Non-IgE-mediated allergies often manifest as skin or digestive symptoms, such as eczema or gastrointestinal discomfort.

    Non-IgE allergies may be challenging to diagnose as symptoms can resemble food intolerances, and there is no specific blood test for this type of reaction.

    Food allergies

    Understanding common food allergies

    The most prevalent food allergies encompass reactions to milk, eggs, peanuts, other nuts, fish, shellfish, soy, and wheat. These allergies can provoke a range of symptoms, from mild discomfort to severe reactions like anaphylaxis—a life-threatening condition.

    Food allergies can develop at any age, but they are more common in children. If you suspect a food allergy, consult a healthcare professional for proper diagnosis and treatment. With proper management, individuals with food allergies can live normal, healthy lives,” Abigail advises.

    Children food allergies

    Differentiating allergies from intolerances

    It’s crucial to distinguish between food allergies and intolerances. Allergies involve the immune system and can be severe, while intolerances typically affect the digestive system and are less dangerous. For instance, cow’s milk protein allergy necessitates strict avoidance, whereas lactose or gluten intolerance may be managed with dietary adjustments.

    Food allergy and food intolerance are often confused, but they have distinct differences,” says Abigail.

    Food allergies are an adverse health effect/clinical symptoms arising from a specific immune response that occurs reproducibly on exposure to a given food. Whereas, food intolerance is a digestive system response that is not linked to the immune system,” Abigail adds.

    How can I ensure that my diet remains balanced and nutritious despite avoiding certain allergens?

    Ensuring a balanced and nutritious diet while avoiding certain allergens requires some planning, but it’s definitely possible. Here are some tips from expert Abigail Da Cruz to help you achieve a balanced diet:

    • Consult with a registered dietitian who is specialised in allergy management: They can help you create a personalised meal plan that includes nutritious alternatives.
    • Learn how to read food labels correctly as this allows you to ensure avoidance of allergens while still having a diverse and varied diet.
    • Use known “safe” foods and create different meal varieties – for example: if rice is a safe good – then one can do rice noodles, rice cakes, and cooked rice.
    • Patients should be re-evaluated at regular intervals to see if they have developed tolerance.
    • For children, growth monitoring is important to assess their long-term growth and development.
    Dietician vs Nutritionist

    Living with food allergies requires diligence, but it shouldn’t hinder your ability to enjoy a healthy lifestyle. By educating yourself, seeking professional guidance, and adopting smart dietary practices, you can thrive while effectively managing food allergies.

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