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How to Manage Food Allergies and Intolerances

A journey of challenge to triumph: Conquering the challenges of food allergies and intolerances.

According to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), a food allergy is defined as “an adverse health effect from a specific immune response that occurs reproducibly on exposure to a given food”. A food intolerance is defined as a “non-immune reaction that include metabolic, toxic, pharmacologic and undefined mechanisms.”

Food allergies generally affect approximately 2.5% of the general population. Due to the varied factors like food allergy diagnosis, ages, geographic variation, dietary exposures etc. accurate determination of the extensiveness of food allergy is a major problem.

Food allergies and intolerances can be challenging especially if you are not fully aware of the triggers. In this blog we will dive into identifying food allergies and intolerances and how to manage them in order to improve your quality of life. 

Food allergies v food intolerances.

A food allergy is a reaction caused by the immune system. Food allergy symptoms can range from mild to severe and may affect the gut, skin, breathing ability or the body’s circulation system. More than 170 foods have been reported to cause allergic reactions among which nine major food allergens are milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, soy, fish, crustacean shellfish, and sesame. These foods are responsible for most of the serious food allergy reactions across the world.

On the other hand, a food intolerance is a more of a common occurrence. However, it is comparatively more difficult to identify. Food intolerances are not caused by an immune system reaction. Instead, they are caused by a number of factors, resulting in unpleasant symptoms which may last for several hours or even days.

Symptoms of food allergies and food intolerances.

Food allergies

Symptoms of a food allergy typically appear two hours after eating. Symptoms of food allergies may range from mild to severe. Among which the following are a several.

  1. Skin rash or hives.
  2. Swollen eyelids or lips.
  3. Mouth, throat, and tongue itching.
  4. Trouble swallowing and a hoarse voice.
  5. Coughing, wheezing, or breathlessness.
  6. Diarrhea, vomiting, and stomach pain.
  7. Loss of consciousness or dizziness.

Food intolerances

Symptoms of food intolerances may usually begin after two hours of consumption but in some circumstances, it may not appear for about forty-eight hours. Some common symptoms of food intolerances are,

  1. Diarrhea.
  2. Bloating.
  3. Flatulence.
  4. Tummy pain.

How to manage food allergies?

  1. Always read labels – In the modern days, food labels include important allergy information such as any additives contain milk protein or byproducts of wheat, or whether a food was produced in a facility that processes nuts. Manufacturers frequently change ingredients. So, irrespective of whether you have bought the food numerous times before, you always have to read the ingredients to avoid allergens.
  • Take care when cooking – To avoid cross-contamination in the household, it is important to have separate sets of cooking and eating utensils for the allergic person and the other members of the house. It is also important to wash all dishes and utensils in hot, soapy water between uses.
  • Formulate an action plan – An allergic person could make a list of steps to take should they accidently eat the food they are allergic to. Having the printed copy of these steps would be help others to assist them in such emergency situations.
  • Wear a medical ID bracelet – Having a medical ID bracelet which carries the relevant information related to their allergies would be highly beneficial in avoiding misdiagnosis in a medical emergency.
  • Always carry your medication – It is imperative to always have the doctor prescribed emergency medications (EpiPen or TwinJet) in hand at all times. This will be crucial in being prepared in emergency situations.

How to manage food intolerances?

  1. Identify the triggers – The first and most important step in managing food intolerances is to identify the factors that trigger the symptoms. Keeping a food diary will be helpful in such situations which will contain the record of the foods eaten and the symptoms experienced. This will help in identifying patterns and pinpoint the foods that cause the symptoms.
  • Avoid trigger foods – Once the trigger foods are identified, the most effective way of managing food intolerances is to avoid those food. This could be a tedious task but with planning and preparation, it is not impossible.
  • Substituting trigger foods and cooking at home – When avoiding trigger foods you can always find suitable substitutes. For lactose intolerant individuals, trying lactose-free milk or dairy free alternatives will be a suitable substitute. For gluten intolerant individuals, trying gluten-free bread or past will be a suitable substitute.

Apart from substitutions, cooking at home can be highly effective. It allows you to control the ingredients in the food in order to avoid the trigger foods and also gives you the opportunity to experiment with new recipes and ingredients.

How can a dietician help?

If you suspect that you have a food allergy or a food intolerance it is important to seek a professional diagnosis. A dietician can help you understand the foods that are causing your symptoms and assist you in the implementation of a diet which avoids the allergen.

A dietician will advise you on how to prevent the symptoms while maintain a healthy, balanced diet that meets your nutritional requirements.

At Language for Life, our qualified dieticians will help you navigate your food allergies and intolerances while helping you to form a personalized meal plan/diet with supporting written information. Our clinicians will help you review your progress and make necessary adjustments to your diet, depending on whether your symptoms have resolved or not.

Having a food allergy or intolerance can sometimes be exhausting. But this shouldn’t stop you from eating a balanced diet. The key points is to understand your condition, identifying your triggers and implementing effective strategies. Your allergy or intolerance need not make your diets boring. Implementing proper strategies, patience, persistence and attention to detail will help you enjoy a happy and healthy life even with food intolerances and allergies.

Disclaimer:

The Company expressly disclaims any and all liability (including liability for negligence) in respect of the use of the information provided. The Company recommends you seek independent professional advice prior to making any decision involving matters outlined in these publications.