What exactly is an allergy? It can be defined as an adverse or inappropriate reaction to something that you eat or drink that does not affect other people. A person can be allergic to potentially anything that they ingest, and allergies are definitely not a one-size fits all situation. In fact, they are one of the most common, chronic conditions worldwide.
In North America, the most common food allergens are gluten, dairy, eggs, soy, peanuts, sesame, shellfish (crustaceans & molluscs), and mustard.
When an allergic reaction happens, your body is struggling to cope with what it has come into contact with. Let’s use an analogy to explore this. Consider that you have a mug sitting on the counter and day after day you put a drop of water in it. There is no way for the water to escape, so what happens when the mug is full? Since the water has no place to go, the mug will ultimately overflow.
Well, your body is really no different than the mug. If you unknowingly eat an allergen day after day, then your body will slowly reach a level where it can no longer deal with it. Once it has reached a “toxic load”, an allergic reaction ensues. Essentially, your immune system views the allergen as an invader and starts an internal chain reaction to try to disable or rid your body of the threat.
The most severe and immediate reaction to a food allergen is anaphylaxis. This is a potentially deadly reaction, is considered a medical emergency, and requires immediate treatment. Other reactions can happen days, weeks, or months after ingesting the culprit. These reactions may include respiratory issues (runny nose, sneezing, or congestion of the ears, nose, throat or lungs), digestive issues, or skin issues (hives or a rash). For some people, allergies can also trigger their asthma.
It is important to note that there is a difference between someone who has food allergies and someone who has food intolerances. An allergy is an adverse reaction to something that others don’t react to. An intolerance is the inability of the body to digest and process the food the way it should. Both allergies and intolerances can be managed in the same fashion.
Getting the diagnosis of one or several food allergies or intolerances can be extremely overwhelming. Taking control of what you eat and eliminating the problem foods will take some time. However, it is possible to learn to “love your food again” if you set your mind to it.