6 most common food allergies in adults
According to Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE), it’s estimated that up to 15 million Americans have a food allergy. While some allergies can lead to itchy skin or rash, others can cause severe reactions such as swollen throat or anaphylaxis—a severe response that affects blood pressure and breathing and can even lead to death. Although many people use the terms interchangeably, a food allergy is not the same as a food intolerance, such as the inability to digest lactose, which can be annoying and painful but not dangerous.
If you think you have an allergy to one of these foods, talk to your health care provider and steer clear of any dish containing them. If you have severe reactions, have a contingency plan ready in case you accidentally expose yourself.
Not to be confused with lactose intolerance, one of the most common types of allergies is to dairy products. When someone is lactose intolerant, lactose—a type of sugar found in dairy—moves through the large intestine without being properly digested and can lead to uncomfortable symptoms, such as gas, bloating or indigestion.
However, when someone is allergic to dairy, the symptoms will affect much more than just the digestive tract. A milk allergy is when the immune system doesn’t recognize dairy and attacks it by releasing histamines. Someone with a milk allergy can develop severe symptoms, such as breathing complications or an uneven heartbeat.
There are many different types of tree nuts, including walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, cashews, pistachios and Brazil nuts. These types of nuts are difficult to avoid, so it’s best to keep a watchful eye on food labels. Tree nuts are an extremely common flavoring and can be found in crackers, cereals, cookies, candy, chocolates, energy bars, coffee, frozen desserts, marinades, barbeque sauces and some cold cuts, such as mortadella.
While peanuts may sound like they’re a tree nut, they are actually grown underground and are a legume. Peanut allergies are another common childhood allergy that can linger into adulthood, but these can be much more severe than tree allergies usually are. Peanut allergies can cause anaphylaxis, so if you or someone you care for has a peanut allergy, it’s best to carry an epinephrine auto-injector at all times.
Peanuts often come into contact with tree nuts during manufacturing and serving processes. For this reason, some health care providers may tell their patients with allergies to avoid both peanuts and tree nuts. If you have a peanut allergy, it does not increase or decrease your chances of having a tree nut allergy.
When people hear soy allergy, they think that they can avoid it by skipping soy sauce and tofu; however, it’s not that simple. Soybeans are a big part of processed foods, and exposure can cause a severe allergic reaction.
Be sure to read the labels, and if you’re eating at a restaurant, tell your waiter about your allergy to make sure that the chef doesn’t cross-contaminate any of the utensils used to prepare your meal.
These two allergies are not directly related but are often found together. Those who are allergic to shellfish don’t automatically have to avoid fish, and vice-versa. If you’re allergic to shellfish, you should avoid the crustacean group (shrimp, lobster and crab). Many people who have a shellfish allergy can tolerate mollusks (scallops, oysters, clams and mussels) in small doses.
Although most food allergies develop early, fish is one of the few that often develops in adulthood. Some allergists may recommend that individuals with fish allergies avoid all fish, but it may be possible for someone to safely consume certain types.
A wheat allergy is different from celiac disease, which is an immune reaction to eating gluten—a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. A wheat allergy does include an allergic reaction to gluten, but other grains, such as barley, rye and oats may be safe to eat. A majority of children who have a wheat allergy will outgrow it, whereas celiac disease is chronic.
While a wheat allergy will cause your body to negatively react to the allergen, celiac disease will cause your body to attack its own villi, components of the small intestine that are responsible for absorbing nutrients. It is important to get an accurate diagnosis of your condition, and a candid talk with your health care provider can get you on the right track.