Top 8 Food Allergies

December 8, 2011

Katherine Butler from the Mother Nature Network published an article outlining the most common food allergies that affect Americans.  As many as 12 million people in the United States have a food allergy.  A food allergy occurs when the body's immune system interprets a food protein as a threat.  To protect itself, the immune system releases histamines and other chemicals into the blood.  These reactions can range from mild annoyance to severe discomfort and in some cases, even fatal.  Consult your doctor for evaluation and treatment.  Here is a brief summary of the top eight food allergies.  For the full article, click here.

Milk: Most common in children.  Symptoms include wheezing, vomiting, hives, and digestive problems.

Eggs: Most people react to the proteins found in the egg whites although some are sensitive to the yolks as well.   Symptoms include wheezing, nausea, stomachache and hives.  According to the American Academy of Allergy, this allergy affects 1.5 percent to 3.2 percent of children.

Peanuts: 1.2 percent of children are affected by a peanut allergy and about 20 percent outgrow the allergy by age 6.  Reactions range from mild irritation to severe anaphylaxis.

Soy: Soy is a difficult allergy to avoid as it is found in many processed foods.  Soy allergies are common in infants but most outgrown it by the time they are toddlers. Symptoms are mild, including hives or an itchy mouth.

Fish: 7 million people are allergic to fish and shellfish in the United States.  Most people are allergic to salmon, tuna, and halibut.  Once a person is allergic to fish, it is unlikely that they will grow out of it.  Symptoms as an adult include swelling, itching, cramps, wheezing, heartburn, dizziness and eczema.

Wheat: Wheat allergies and celiac's disease are two separate afflictions.  a wheat allergy can cause an upset stomach, eczema, allergic rhinitis, asthma and anaphylaxis. Wheat is found in many food products and can be difficult to avoid.

Shellfish: An allergy to shellfish usually develops as an adult.  This is one of the most dangerous food allergies because is causes intense anaphylactic reactions.  People can be allergic to crustaceans (shrimp, crab and lobster), mollusks (clams, mussels, oysters, scallops), or both. If you are allergic to shellfish that does not necessarily mean that you are allergic to fish.  Consult your doctor to evaluate tolerance.

Tree nuts: 1.8 million Americans are affected by a tree nut allergy.  Tree nuts loosely include cashews, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios and walnuts. (Coconuts and almonds are classified as tree nuts by the FDA but are technically drupes). Also, peanuts are a legume, not a nut. A tree nut allergy can cause a fatal reaction including anaphylaxis.

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