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Food-With-Unsaturated-Fatsby Angela Aladjem RD, LD

A food allergy is a serious condition affecting as many as 15 million people in America, one in thirteen of them being children. While it is a widespread health concern, few people are well versed in understanding the implications for someone that is affected by this condition. With so many children being affected and with the new wave of food intolerances in today’s society, I wanted to spend some time to talk about allergies and intolerances, and how to help those around you that may be suffering.

A food allergy is the body’s reaction to a protein in food. It is an immune response that causes a large amount of an antibody to flood the body in order to fight the enemy. Symptoms of this reaction can range from mild, think hives or a bad taste in the mouth, moderate, think vomiting or diarrhea, to severe, like a loss of consciousness or an obstructive swelling of the lips, tongue, or throat (anaphylaxis). Anaphylaxis requires immediate medical attention. Most people with a food allergy carry an Epi-Pen for emergency administration of life-saving epinephrine, as well as Benadryl, to help lessen the reaction until medical attention can be received. The most common food allergens are the following: peanuts, soy, milk, wheat, treenuts, shellfish, and egg.

An intolerance, on the other hand, is not immune mediated. They are almost never life-threatening if a person accidentally comes into contact with the food to which they have an intolerance. Usually, the symptoms of a food intolerance after contact include a mild rash or hives, and stomach issues such as nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. The exception is Celiac disease, where when a person comes into contact with gluten, he/she does have an immune response that takes place in the intestine. Overtime, this can damage the intestines causing other health problems.

So how can you help? If you have someone in your life that is affected by an allergy, the most important thing is prevention of a reaction. In the home, most people have an easy time eliminating culprits and being careful with making sure foods are not cross-contaminated (example: if you handle shellfish, wash and disinfect the surfaces and utensils before they touch a food or surface food for someone with the allergen will be eating). However, eating out of the house can be scary. It is important to carry a list of allergens with you, and speaking with a chef to make sure they are aware. Most are more than happy to help and are up to the challenge to create something for you to eat safely. Also, be prepared for the worst. Be prepared with the appropriate medication to help in the event of an emergency.

There is a lot of great information out there for you to learn more. Education saves lives. Check out www.foodallergy.org , for more.

In health, Angela



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