Food allergies are incredibly common and numbers of those affected are rising every day. While over 160 foods can potentially cause an allergic reaction, typically a food allergy stems from one of just eight identified food types. These account for nearly 90% of food allergic reactions.
But by being careful, becoming aware of what you ingest and opting for allergen-free foods, you can maintain a delicious and healthy diet. The following is an overview of some common food allergies, symptoms to watch out for and tips to avoiding them with the help of Orgran's vegan, egg, gluten and dairy-free food products.
Common Food Allergies
A food allergy is a medical condition in which the immune system recognizes some proteins in foods as being harmful. The body then launches protective measures that can cause inflammation. For those who have a food allergy, sometimes even the smallest exposure to the allergen can cause a reaction.
Symptoms of an Allergic Reaction
Most food allergy symptoms will appear anywhere from a few minutes to two hours after a person has eaten the food. It is advised that anyone with a potentially life-threatening allergy carry an EpiPen® with them at all times. Common food-related allergic reactions can include any of the following:
- Flushed skin or rash
- Swelling of the face, tongue or lips
- Swelling of the throat and vocal cords
- Difficulty breathing
- A tingling or itchy sensation in the mouth
- Abdominal cramps
- Coughing or wheezing
- Dizziness and/or lightheadedness
- Loss of consciousness
Food allergies are broken up into two types: IgE antibody and non-IgE antibody. An antibody is a type of blood protein used by the immune system to recognize and combat the infection.
- With an IgE allergy, the IgE antibody is released by the immune system.
- With a non-IgE allergy, no IgE antibodies are released and other parts of the immune system are used to fight the threat.
The following are the eight common food allergies that are each listed as a "major food allergen" by the FDA's Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) of 2004.
1. Cow's Milk
An allergy to cow's milk tends to be the most common food allergy in infants and young children. This is even more true if the child has been exposed to cow's milk protein prior to six months of age. A cow's milk allergy affects 2% to 3% of babies and toddlers. However, it's important to note that about 90% of those with the allergy outgrow it by age three.
An IgE milk allergy is the most common and potentially the most serious. Reactions typically occur 5 to 30 minutes after ingesting the milk product. Symptoms can range from swelling to anaphylaxis. A non-IgE allergy results in more gut-based symptoms like vomiting or diarrhea. To avoid an allergic reaction, it's best to stay away from milk, milk powder, butter, margarine, cheese, yogurt, cream and ice cream.
After a cow's milk allergy, an egg allergy is the second most common in children. But 68% will outgrow the allergy by age 16. Because the proteins in egg whites and egg yolks vary slightly, it is possible to be allergic to egg whites and not the yolks, and vice versa. But an allergy to egg whites is the most common.
Like with most allergies, the key to avoiding a reaction is to stay away from the food altogether by going on an egg-free diet and using egg-replacement products. However, some people can tolerate egg-related foods such as breads and baked goods containing a cooked egg component. And some studies have even found that introducing baked goods containing eggs can actually shorten the time it takes to outgrow the allergy. Be sure to check with your doctor before reintroducing any foods that contain eggs.
Another common allergy, peanuts can also cause severe and even fatal reactions. The allergy usually affects 4% to 8% of children and 1% to 2% of adults. Typically, 15% to 22% of children will outgrow the allergy in their teenage years. Those with a peanut allergy are often also allergic to tree nuts. While the cause of peanut allergies is unknown, it's thought that those with a family history of peanut allergies are most at risk.
Those with the allergy will want to avoid peanuts and products that contain peanuts. Treatments are being developed, which may help desensitize children to the peanut allergy.
4. Tree Nuts
Quite common, a tree nut allergy is an allergy to the nuts and seeds of some trees. This can include almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, macadamia nuts, pine nuts, pistachios and walnuts. The allergy also pertains to food products containing tree nuts, like oils and nut butters. Unlike some allergies, an allergy to tree nuts is typically a lifelong condition.
Those with a tree nut allergy are advised to avoid all types of tree nuts, even if they're seemingly only allergic to one type. This is because having an allergy to one type of tree nut increases your risk of developing an allergy to additional types. Allergic reactions to tree nuts are often very severe and are responsible for nearly 50% of anaphylaxis-related deaths. If you have a tree nut allergy, you'll want to avoid all tree nuts and tree nut products, and carry an EpiPen with you at all times.
A wheat allergy is the body's immune response to proteins found in wheat products. The reaction can range from severe to fatal. This allergy tends to affect children the most, but two-thirds of children outgrow it by age 12. Celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity are not the same as a wheat allergy, though they often exhibit similar digestive symptoms.
While those with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity have to avoid wheat and grains containing protein gluten, those with a wheat allergy need only to avoid wheat and can often tolerate gluten from grains that don't contain wheat.
A soy allergy is triggered by a protein in soybeans or products that contain soybeans. It affects about 0.4% of children and is most commonly seen in those under three. About 70% of children do outgrow the allergy, though.
Symptoms are usually mild and include an itchy, tingly mouth and a runny nose. But symptoms can also include asthma and breathing issues. In rare cases, a soy allergy can also cause anaphylaxis. If you're allergic to soy, you'll want to avoid soy, soybeans and soy products. Be sure to read food labels, as soy is found in many foods.
A shellfish allergy stems from the protein tropomyosin, commonly found in the crustacean and mollusk families of fish. But the proteins arginine kinase and myosin light chain can also trigger an allergic reaction. Shellfish includes crayfish, lobster, prawns, scallops, shrimp and squid.
It's important to note that the symptoms of a shellfish allergic reaction are often quite similar to that of ingesting contaminated seafood. Both cause symptoms such as stomach pain and diarrhea. Shellfish allergies also don't tend to dissipate over time. If you're allergic to shellfish, you'll want to not only exclude all shellfish from your diet, but also avoid being around seafood while it's being cooked. It's been found that the vapors from cooking shellfish can trigger a shellfish allergic reaction in some.
Affecting up to 2% of adults, fish allergies are very common and can often develop later in life. Many people with a fish allergy are often allergic to more than one type of fish, the most common being salmon, tuna and halibut. Symptoms often include vomiting and diarrhea, and in rare cases, anaphylaxis.
It's important to note that finned fish and shellfish are not related and being allergic to one doesn't mean you have to avoid both. Talk with your doctor to find out what specific fish you should avoid.
While the prior eight allergies are the most common, there are many more out there that can cause mild to severe allergic reactions. The following are some of the lesser-known food allergies:
- Mustard seeds
- Sesame seeds
List of Gluten-Free Foods and Snacks from Orgran
Avoiding food you're allergic to is a good place to start. But build upon that and begin to include allergen-free foods and healthy replacement products into your diet. This will help ensure you're getting the nutrients you need, while still getting to enjoy a variety of good-tasting foods. The following are just some of the many allergen-free foods available from Orgran. Each is free of gluten, wheat, egg, dairy, yeast, nut and soy.
If you have a known food allergy, be sure to talk with your doctor about what your food limitations are and whether or not your allergy warrants you carrying an EpiPen. And if you believe you have a food allergy or you're interested in finding out what you may be allergic to, talk with your doctor about your options today.
Feel Free to Feel Good with the Help of Orgran
At Orgran, we're proud to be one of the few production plants in the world dedicated to gluten-friendly and allergen-free foods. Shop our wide variety of products for everything from cake mixes to kids' cereals. Have a question about our list of gluten-free foods and snacks? Reach out today — we're happy to help! Shop allergen-free food now at Orgran.