What is Food Allergy?

Almost every person is allergic to some or the other kind of food. These food allergies can be broken down into two categories – Hypersensitivity and Food Intolerance.

Hypersensitivity – It is an adverse reaction of immune system itself. It is unrelated to any actual physical effect of food or food additive. It is caused by immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies.

Food intolerance – It is actually caused by food itself. It is not a function of immune system itself overreacting to the food or food additive. The symptoms of it may be similar to symptoms of an actual immune symptom reaction. But the causes will be quite different.

Of these two types, actual immune system reactions are more common. But it may appear that a trend to intolerances like lactose intolerance is on the rise. In case of food allergies people with allergies produce IgE antibodies to specific epitopes in food allergen. These IgE antibodies bind to IgE receptors on mast cells of the tissue, which will be on the skin, digestive tract and respiratory system. The exposure of these antigens will cause the release of histamines. It ultimately results in mucus secretion and muscle contraction. Then it leads to a range of symptoms from unpleasant to serious or even severe.

Allergic reactions to food begin almost immediately after the ingestion of food. The most common food allergy is allergy to peanuts. Less severe reactions to food allergies are oropharyngeal pruritus, stridor, angioedema, cough, dyspnea, dysphonia and wheezing. Apart from peanuts people are commonly allergic to tree nuts and shellfish. The best way to avoid food allergies is taking a food allergy test done. Also avoid foods that show positive on the test.