Feature Articles: Food, Fitness and Health
Avoid foods that cause problems
Tammy Roberts, MS, RD, LD, nutrition and health education specialist, Barton County, University of Missouri Extension
It is estimated that one of every four households in the U.S. make adjustments in food habits due to food sensitivities. Whether the problem is an allergy or intolerance to the food, it must be identified to prevent serious reactions.
It is important to note the difference between a food allergy and a food intolerance. A food allergy is a response by the immune system when it does not recognize a food ingredient. The typical culprit is protein. When the body does not recognize the protein, the immune system works to get rid of it by producing destructive chemicals. These chemicals cause rashes, watery eyes, swelling, runny noses and other uncomfortable symptoms. A food allergy can produce a life threatening response called an anaphylactic reaction. People who have severe reactions must take great care to avoid the allergen and be prepared to handle the situation if they do ingest the allergen.
A food intolerance can produce similar symptoms of a food allergy, but the immune system is not involved. Generally, the response is in the gastrointestinal tract. Symptoms often include gas, bloating, abdominal pain and diarrhea. Some common causes of food intolerance reactions include lactose (milk sugar), table sugar, maltose, histamine and tyramine (substances created in the fermentation process of aged cheese, vinegar, soy sauce and processed meats), salts, and artificial food coloring and preservatives.
Eight foods cause 90 percent of allergic reactions. Those foods are milk, eggs, wheat, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, fish and shellfish. Children tend to be allergic to the first five foods and adults have more reactions to the last four. Four to 6 percent of children have food allergies, while only 1 to 2 percent of adults have them. That is because children often outgrow their allergies. Allergies to fish, shellfish, peanuts or tree nuts are often a lifetime affliction.
Whether the reaction is an allergy or intolerance, the treatment is the same — avoid the food! Read labels carefully to make sure your allergen is not present and ask restaurants about the content of the foods they prepare.
Last update: Tuesday, May 05, 2009