What are Food Allergies

Welcome to the blog! Since it is my first post, I find that it is fitting for me to share with you what food allergies are so that we’re all on the same page. I hope that you are able to learn from my definition and will be ready for my more exciting content to come in the future.  I will try to blog weekly to keep you all updated in my food allergy management.

Food allergies are a medical condition where a person’s immune system attacks the proteins in a food that they are allergic to as if it were a harmful toxin.  The reaction typically occurs within thirty minutes of eating a substance.  The symptoms of this immune response can range from mild hives, to swelling of the lips and tongue, to a severe reaction with welts and a closed throat that completely restricts breathing.  A very serious reaction is called anaphylaxis and can lead to death.

If an allergic person experiences an anaphylactic reaction, a simple antihistamine is not enough.  The person will need immediate medical help and an injection of epinephrine.  Epinephrine is a hormone that maintains blood pressure and opens up airways and is an emergency treatment.  However, epinephrine is not a cure for food allergies, since it only treats the symptoms.  In fact there is no cure for food allergies.  Research is being conducted to explore avenues that could lead to a cure, but with varying success.  The most common avenue is through food challenges under medical supervision, but their results vary on an individual basis, and building up to larger quantities of the allergen has created full allergic reactions in some cases.

A person with food allergies develops immunoglobulin E (or IgEs) antibodies that attach to mast cells.  When the allergen enters the immune system and attaches to the antibodies, it releases the histamine that creates an allergic reaction. When a person gets bloodwork done to learn about their food allergies, they are finding out the IgE levels of the blood.  More severe allergies have higher levels on IgE.  A low IgE level does not mean that your allergy is something to brush aside.  Allergies are constantly changing and a substance that only gave you hives once might bring you anaphylaxis the next.  This is why it is important to educate yourself about food allergies and respect the boundaries set by the allergic person that you know.  Everyone handles their food allergies differently, and what is safe for one person is not necessarily the best option for someone else.

 

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