Food allergies are growing in the United States. Whether this is due to more awareness or an increase of food sensitivities is not concretely known. An allergy happens when the body’s natural defenses overreact to something ingested, inhaled or absorbed through the skin. Food allergies impact about 50 million Americans – about 6 percent of children and 4 percent of adults.

Dr. Adam Graves, ND, LAc, practices at Colorado Natural Medicine in Castle Rock and said “Food allergies have continue to rise at a rapid rate, the increase use of antibiotics, environmental chemicals, the overly clean households, and c-sections all have contributed to this increase in allergies. Check out the food allergies slides and if you are having health issues that aren’t improving and don’t know why, food allergies maybe a major cause.”

There are eight common food allergies that can pose a serious problem, according to the Food Allergy Research & Resource Program.

Slideshow: Use Arrows to Change Slides

Peanut allergies can be life-threatening: Peanuts are not nuts at all, but are a legume. Still, allergies are so potent the peanut doesn’t have to be consumed – even peanut proteins in the air can affect people who are sensitive to it. Peanut is one of the food allergens that can cause anaphylaxis – a sudden and potentially deadly condition. It’s serious and the problem is growing. A study reported that the rate of peanut allergies in children tripled between 1997 and 2008. Interestingly, 20 percent of children who are allergic to peanuts outgrow the problem.
Tree nut allergies can be tricky: One of the most common food allergies in children and adults are tree nuts. The symptoms of a tree nut allergy include stomach pain, cramps, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty swallowing, itchy mouth, throat, eyes and skin. It also can cause nasal congestion or a runny nose, shortness of breath and, less commonly, anaphylaxis. Those with tree nut allergies usually retain their allergies for life. They always should have an epinephrine auto-injector handy, as it is extremely difficult to avoid exposure. Always read labels.
Does milk really do your body good? About half of Americans have sensitivity to milk and milk products. Milk, instead of being good for everyone, can cause large spikes in blood insulin and may contribute to insulin resistance. Today’s milk also contains bovine hormones that have the potential to alter human hormones, which has been linked to colorectal and prostate cancers. About 25 percent of Caucasians are lactose intolerant, 97 percent of Native Americans. However, grass-fed dairy is a great source of fat-soluble vitamins and conjugated linoleic acid – an anti-inflammatory and healing fat. Fermented dairy is a great source of probiotics. What to do?
Egg allergies in children second only to milk allergies: Being allergic to eggs is the second most common food allergy in children. Milk is first. It can cause hives, and sudden anaphylaxis – which means a milk-allergic child needs to have access to epinephrine injections. Parents need to learn to read labels for egg content in prepared foods. Whole foods are safer, of course, where you can control what goes into the meal. The good news is, most children do eventually outgrow egg allergies. An interesting note, however, is that many vaccines contain egg protein. Check with your naturopathic doctor when contemplating shots for your egg-allergic child.
Wheat allergies are becoming common: Extremely common among young children are wheat allergies. These allergies develop in infancy and will show up between ages 3 and 5– but can remain in remission until a person is in their 20s or 30s. Reactions can be as mild as hives, and as severe as anaphylaxis. Symptoms can be mistaken for pollen allergies and cause itchy or swollen eyes and congestion. Want a substitute to wheat? Try grains such as quinoa, rice, rye, tapioca, amaranth and barley.
Soy is everywhere, and is a common food allergy: Soy beans are legumes and are popular in many products such as in soy milk, flour, grits, meal, soy sauce and soy oil. It appears in infant formulas and in processed foods, but in children it is problematic. Infants typically begin showing symptoms such as a rash or hives, itching in the mouth, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stuffy or runny nose or wheezing, but usually a child will outgrow a soy allergy by the time they are 10.
Allergies to fish with fins is a lifelong problem: Severe allergic reactions come with finned fish and may need epinephrine injections to avoid anaphylaxis. These allergies, unlike peanut or other allergies that can go away, are for life. About 40 percent of people with fish allergies experience their first episode as adults – making strict avoidance of fish products a must. Common fish species to be allergic to are salmon, tuna and halibut, but if you have a fish allergy, avoid all fish, including the steam from cooking fish as fish protein can become airborne. Avoiding seafood restaurants also is a good idea if you have fish allergies. Knowing your cuisines is a good idea, too, as Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese, African and Indonesian foods use fish components in their mammal and avian meat dishes.
Shellfish, the most dangerous of fish allergens: Shellfish is an extremely common allergy in adults, and also is one of the most dangerous. Reactions to shellfish send the most people to the hospital emergency room than any other food allergy within minutes or just a few hours of consumption. However, a shellfish allergy is different than a finned-fish allergy. The most common reactions occur with shrimp, lobster or crab. Symptoms of shellfish reactions include vomiting, cramps, indigestion, diarrhea, hives, shortness of breath, wheezing, repetitive cough, tight, and/or hoarse throat, swelling of the tongue and/or lips, bluing of skin, weak pulse and dizziness and confusion. Interestingly, people who are allergic to shellfish may also have reactions to land snails, dust mites, cockroaches, or other insects.
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