What is a food allergy?

One of the lovely members of my community suggested that I do a blog post on what an allergy is and the different types of food allergies.

 

This is a really great idea as a lot of the time when you’re first diagnosed you’re confused and can even find it hard to communicate what a food allergy is to your friends and family. Similarly, if one of your family members or friends is diagnosed you could read the below to help them out.

 

What is a food allergy?

 

Put simply a food allergy is a reaction to a food substance.

 

A food allergy occurs when the body interprets food as a threat. It then makes an antibody to fight the food. When you come across the food (either if you eat it or it comes into contact with your skin) it triggers the release of histamine into the body.  This is as your body is triggering a protective response.

 

Just because an initial reaction causes few problems doesn’t mean that all reactions will be similar; a food that triggered only mild symptoms on one occasion may cause more severe symptoms later.

 

The most severe allergic reaction is anaphylaxis- this is a life-threatening reaction. It can impact your breathing and your heart rate and usually occurs quickly after eating the food substance.  You cure anaphylaxis with an EpiPen.

 

Symptoms occur with the release of histamine. With the release of chemicals throughout the body, anaphylaxis occurs.

 

We divide food allergies into three types.

 

  • IgE mediated food allergy. The most common type, triggered by the immune system producing an antibody called immunoglobulin E (IgE). With this allergy symptoms occur quickly after eating the food. There’s a greater risk of anaphylaxis with this type of allergy.
  • Non – IgE mediated food allergy. These allergic reactions aren’t caused by immunoglobulin E, but by other cells in the immune system. This type of allergy often takes longer to develop.
  • Mixed IgE and non-IgE mediated food allergies. Some people can have both types of allergies.

 

What are the different types of food allergies?

 

You can be allergic to any food type. However, eight types of food account for about 90 percent of all food allergies.  These are eggs, milk, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, wheat and soy. Certain seeds, including sesame and mustard seeds, are also common triggers.

 

Do let me know if you have any other good ways of explaining food allergies!

 

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