The truth is that while many people think they have food allergies, only a small fraction of people actually have true allergies. Most symptoms people experience are caused by food intolerances rather than allergies. Some examples of common intolerances:
- Corn products
- Cow’s milk and dairy products ( Lactose intolerance)
- Wheat and other gluten-containing grains (Celiac disease)
If many people mistake food intolerance for food allergy, how can one identify the symptoms correctly?
- Symptoms will usually hit within two hours of eating.
- Hives, hoarseness of voice and wheezing are key symptoms of a food allergy.
- Abdominal pain
- Difficulty swallowing
- Itching of the mouth, throat, eyes, skin, or any area
- Light-headedness or fainting
- Nasal congestion
- Runny nose
- Swelling (angioedema), especially of the eyelids, face, lips, and tongue
- Shortness of breath
- Stomach cramps
Symptoms of oral allergy syndrome, however, are more like this:
- Itchy lips, tongue, and throat
- Swollen lips (sometimes)
What Causes a Food Allergy?
So what causes the body to have such a bad response to harmless, even healthy foods? The body is constantly defending itself from illness and foreign bodies. In some people, their bodies produce antibodies that fight not only bad things, but mistakenly fight good things as well.
Any food can cause an allergic reaction, but a few foods are the main culprits. In children, the most common food allergies are to:
- Shellfish (shrimp, crab, lobster, snails, clams)
- Tree nuts
Children are often the ones suffering from food allergies, as these allergies often start in childhood. Many children grow out of their specific food allergy, even as early as age five. Some food allergies tend to be lifelong, however, such allergies to peanuts, tree nuts, and shellfish.