April 7 is World Health Day and a good time to assess overall health. A good part of our health is shaped by the food we eat, but here’s a challenge: A number of healthy foods can cause allergies and end up being detrimental to our health. The slice of whole wheat bread or boiled egg, for example, that nourishes one person could throw another individual into an allergic tailspin.
Food allergies are a growing problem, affecting roughly two kids in every school class—and plenty of adults, too. Food allergies are often misunderstood, though. Here are a few common myths about food allergy:
- If I react to a food item, I am allergic to it – Not all negative food reactions have their root in allergy. Some reactions may stem from food poisoning or contamination. You may also have an intolerance to certain food rather than a bona fide allergy. For example, many people are lactose intolerant but far fewer are actually allergic to milk. For a reaction to be classified as food allergy, it must include the immune system giving the wrong signal to the body. Food allergies involve the body’s immunoglobulins (Ig) E, which are proteins that play a key role in the body’s immune response.
- I can be allergic to any food item – While many food items cause allergic reactions, not all of them do. The most common foods that trigger reactions include shellfish, fish, eggs, tree nuts, peanuts, milk, fruit, wheat, and soy.
- I will outgrow my food allergy – Children are more prone to food allergy than adults. Most kids age out of food allergies as they emerge from adolescence. However, allergies that persist into adulthood or that start in adulthood do not usually go away. Tree nut allergies, peanut allergies, and shellfish allergies tend to stick around for life.
- I can eat very small amounts of trigger foods – If you are allergic to food items, it is best to avoid them altogether. Eating a small portion of the allergy-causing food, with the belief that it will not have an effect on the body, is a risky proposition that could even turn deadly if it triggers a severe anaphylactic reaction.
If you suspect that you have allergies, talk to your physician about allergy testing and food allergy treatment.