What is Food Allergy and How can we Cure it ?

food allergy
Food allergy is an adverse immune reaction to food and that is different from other food-induced adverse reactions such as intolerance and poisoning. In food allergy our body recognizes components of food, mainly proteins, as foreign objects and initiates an immune response against it. Food allergy is a familial trait and is often associated with a very common combination of allergic diseases that include allergic rhinitis, conjunctivitis, eczema and asthma.

Food allergy is commonly known to occur against certain kinds of food such as pea nuts and other tree nuts including walnut, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios etc (source:foodallergy.org). Interestingly, some people show allergic reactions to one of these nuts while others develop allergy against several. Allergy against egg white and milk, two rich sources of protein, is also common. Children who show allergy against nuts, milk and egg white often outgrow them with age. Hypoallergenic food for children often contains proteins that are partially digested or contain free amino acid mixtures. They have no large proteins found in whole milk and are therefore safe.

An interesting aspect of food allergy is cross reactivity people who are allergic to one food item are often allergic to a few other specific foods as well. For example, Children who are allergic to milk are often allergic to soy products as well. Another example involves people allergic to latex who are often allergic to food like banana and kiwi as well. One reason for this might be that the IgE antibody that reacts with one compound in one item often reacts with similar compounds in other items as well.

The common mechanism of food allergy involves binding of the protein by the IgE antibody and reactions that are induced by it. However, IgE-independent mechanisms are also found to lead to food allergy, as in the case of Celiac disease (allergy to gluten, a protein in cereals like wheat) and Milk-soy protein intolerance. Common symptoms include hives, itching of face and mouth, swelling of face and mouth, nasal congestion, vomiting and fainting. The symptoms, their intensity and the amount of food needed to trigger allergy all vary from person to person. In extreme cases IgE-mediated food allergy can lead to anaphylactic reactions that can be serious for human health.

Food allergy can be detected by various tests. One such test involves administration of specific food derived molecules to people as pills and testing their reaction to it. Another method is skin prick test where skin is pricked with a set of needles that carry specific allergens. Blood taken from people can also be tested for specific responses or presence of specific IgE antibodies that can induce food allergy. Each test has its own advantages while administration of oral antigens as pills will detect even non-IgE mediated food allergy, blood tests give detailed information regarding IgE subtypes and their levels. The skin prick test is the fastest, but least informative of all.

There are verified medical findings (such as this > healthpsych.psy.vanderbilt.edu ) that children who are breast fed during their early stages of life show reduced milk and associated allergic reactions. Once food allergy is identified, the best approach is to avoid exposure to the allergen. In case of severe food allergy, the allergic material should be avoided even to the extent that the food should not even come in physical contact with the individual since it might induce lethal anaphylactic reactions.

There are different ways to respond to food allergy therapeutically. In case of an allergic reaction, the response depends on its severity. Epinephrine, steroids and anti-histamines are the generally used drugs that reduce allergic response. Each of them differ in their effect on body function and hence their usage should be determined by a physician on an individual bases.

Another method that can be used against IgE-mediated food allergy is oral immunotherapy or desensitization. Here the patients are exposed to the food they are allergic to, by placing small amounts of food under their tongue, under medical supervision. Gradually this exposure is increased. This can reduce immune reaction over time due to an immune mechanism called desensitization. There are also drugs such as omalizumab that is being developed against the way body uses IgE antibody. Depending on how strong the allergic reaction is, this treatment can partially restore the exposure to the allergic food and help individuals to lead more or less normal lives. Both these therapies are currently in the trial phase and is not widely available.

At present, the best way to manage food allergy is alterations in lifestyle and avoiding allergens. Acute allergy requires the individual to be vigilant against even accidental exposures and to carry epinephrine to survive fatal anaphylactic responses. However, new medical therapies that are being developed will help in improving their management and better the better lifestyle of people who suffer from food allergy.

Useful books on Amazon

Your Hidden Food Allergies Are Making You Fat
Food Allergies and Food Intolerance: The Complete Guide to Their Identification and Treatment
The 7-Day Allergy Makeover: A Simple Program to Eliminate Allergies and Restore VibrantHealth from the Inside Out

Go Back to Health Care for more.

Edited by: Rajesh Bihani ( Find me on Google+ )

Disclaimer: The suggestions in the article(wherever applicable) are for informational purposes only. They are not intended as medical or any other type of advice