common food allergies

Food allergies are quite common and affect roughly 5% of all adults and 8% of kids. There are several food items that can cause an allergic reaction or an undesirable symptom.

It is important to note the difference between food allergy and intolerance. Allergy basically causes an abnormal immune reaction which may result in various mild to severe conditions. Intolerance is often a result of insufficient enzymes to digest a particular food item.

Having low levels of enzyme lactase for instance may render one incapable of digesting lactose, the main sugar found in dairy products. Intolerance can be managed by eating small amounts of the food.

Allergies on the other hand can occur even when you eat the smallest portion. The side effects range from swelling of the mouth, face and/or tongue to breathing difficulties, low blood pressure, hives, diarrhea and itchy rashes. These symptoms can show up a few minutes or hours after consuming the particular food item that causes the allergy.

Here is a look at some of the most popular common food allergies you should be aware of:

1. Tree Nuts

The term tree nut is used to refer to various kinds of nuts taken from trees. This includes Brazil nuts, cashews, pistachios, almonds, macadamia nuts, pine nuts and walnuts among others.

Tree nuts food allergy is one of the most common types of food allergies in adults and is said to affect around 1% of US citizens. Those suffering tree nut allergies may also develop allergic reactions towards nut oils and butters. It is thus advisable to stay away from nuts altogether, which is easier than avoiding one or two kinds of tree nuts. Unfortunately, nut allergy is a lifelong condition that does not go away with age.

Statistical data also indicates that this allergy is the leading cause of anaphylaxis deaths as symptoms can quickly become severe and chronic.

For this reason, those with tree nut allergy are advised to carry an epi-pen at all times, just in case they accidentally eat food items that contain some nuts. An epi-pen is more like the inhaler given to asthmatic patients.

It delivers the all important hormone epinephrine which mimics the natural adrenaline formed in the body. Adrenaline is the hormone that stimulates our immune system to fight off attacks and recover from shocks.

Those who are allergic to tree nuts should avoid all nuts since they carry a higher risk of being allergic to other nuts as well. They should also avoid products like butter and oils derived from nuts.

2. Peanuts

Like tree nuts, peanuts are commonly associated with allergies that can be potentially lethal. However, peanuts are distinct in that they are legumes rather than trees. Nonetheless, the allergy is not that different and those allergic to peanuts will likely experience the same response when they eat tree nuts.

Peanut allergy affects 4-8% of children and 2% of adults in the US alone. Fortunately, around 22% of the children who suffer this form of allergy will grow out of it by the time they are teenagers.

However, the condition can persist and become life-long especially if you are allergic to all kinds of nuts. It is not known what exactly causes this allergy, but those with a family history of nut allergies are considered to have a high risk of developing it.

Adults with allergic reactions to peanuts are advised to completely keep it away from their diets. If you have a family history of peanut allergy, it is advisable to introduce them early to your child as this can help resolve the problem.

This can be done through a nursing mother’s diet. Nonetheless, the only treatment currently recommended is total avoidance of peanuts especially since the symptoms can be lethal.

You may also want to avoid other nuts if you are not sure whether they will cause allergic reactions. Some cases of peanut allergy fade away naturally the more you eat them, but this is only encouraged if the symptoms are mild. If you have this allergy, review any packaged foods you get to make sure there is no peanut.

3. Milk

Cow’s milk is the single most popular cause of allergic responses in toddlers and babies around 2-3 years old. This usually occurs when the toddler is introduced to cow’s milk before they hit 6 months. The milk contains some complex protein that can cause allergic reactions 5 to 30 minutes after drinking it.

There are two main types of milk allergy namely IgE and non-IgE, but the former is more common and more serious than the latter. Children and adults suffering IgE allergy caused by cow’s milk may experience mild symptoms like rashes, swelling, hives and vomiting.

In some rare cases, the allergy may develop into anaphylaxis, which is a lethal kind of reaction characterized by congested airways, sudden drop in blood pressure, shock, rapid pulse and unconsciousness. If you suffer anaphylaxis, seek immediate medical attention. Non-IgE allergies generally cause diarrhea, constipation and gut inflammation.

Cow’s milk allergies in toddlers often go away without treatment as the child grows. It is therefore less common in adults, but still affects some. Foods known to cause this allergic response include milk, milk-powder, yoghurt, cheese, cream, butter, ice-cream and margarine.

It is highly recommendable to remove milk products from your diet if you suffer related symptoms. For severe cases, a form of adrenaline known as epinephrine is administered. Nursing mothers can also find other alternative formulas.

4. Eggs

Egg allergies are the second most common in children, but many cases (68%) go away by the time the child is 15 years old. Allergies caused by eggs can manifest in symptoms such as stomach ache, digestive distress, hives, rashes and other skin reactions, and respiratory problems.

Some rare cases may develop to anaphylaxis when the symptoms become severe. It is possible to have an allergic response towards egg whites only or egg yolks only since the proteins in both are slightly different.

However, egg white allergies are more popular particularly because more proteins that cause this allergy are found in egg whites. The sure treatment of egg allergies is to establish an egg-free diet especially if you have severe symptoms of the allergy.

Fortunately, you do not have to avoid all egg-related foods. Studies have shown that children with egg allergy often show little or no symptoms when given products with baked egg component. This is because heating the egg changes the shape of allergy-causing protein.

In fact, some doctors recommend products such as biscuits and cakes containing baked eggs to shorten the duration within which the child outgrows this allergy. Nevertheless, this may not be the result for everyone and sometimes it is only safe to stay away from eggs and egg-containing products to be safe. Egg whites are often used in many deserts and pastries so it is important to ask your waiter if necessary.

5. Soy

Soy is one of the most heavily consumed foods that exist everywhere. Due to its high protein content, soy is featured in several packaged foods and is loved by many doctors who recommend it to increase protein intake. Back in the 1950s, manufacturers started considering soy as an ideal replacement of cow’s milk.

It was thought that soy could reduce the allergenic responses that were common with cow’s milk. What’s more, soy has several benefits and is vital nutrition to kids and adults. Decades later, soy has itself recorded various allergenic reactions and now sits alongside milk in the top food allergies everyone should know.

Luckily for children, they can outgrow soy allergy when it is introduced early in life. Most kids will get used to eating more soy and the allergy won’t be a problem by the time they are 12 years old. Nevertheless, some will simply have to live without including any soy in their diet especially considering its undesirable side effects.

Those with soy allergy may experience symptoms such as asthma, hives, canker sores, colitis, acne breakouts and even anaphylactic shock. The only sure way to treat this form of food allergy is to avoid it altogether.

This calls for careful review of packaged foods since most include it as the primary source of protein. Check the label and make sure there are no traces of soy to stay safe. You may also need an epi-pen just in case you accidentally let in some soy and it causes a major shock. Nevertheless, this is very rare as most immediate side effects of eating soy are subtle.

6. Shellfish

Crustaceans known as shellfish have a unique protein that can cause food allergy. This response occurs when your body attacks the protein tropomyosin.

Other proteins that may trigger this allergy include kinase, myosin light-chain and Arginine. Shellfish may sometimes be classified under fish, but they exist in a different family so it is best to distinguish them.

Allergies stemming from shellfish can cause almost instant side effects. However, it is quite difficult to tell shellfish allergies from other types of reactions caused by contamination, viruses and parasites.

Symptoms range from vomiting and diarrhea to stomach pain and soreness. Unfortunately shellfish allergy is not something you can grow out of and you will likely be allergic until a treatment is discovered.

Currently, it is advisable to stay away from all shellfish. It may also be important to note that allergic reactions can be triggered by simply inhaling the smell from cooking shellfish. Those suffering the allergy are therefore advised to stay away from places where shellfish is being cooked.

Some of the popular shellfish to avoid include shrimp, prawns, scallops, crayfish, squid and lobster. Some varieties are used in packaged food and supplements so it is crucial to watch for any inclusions.

7. Fish

Fishes are known to cause allergic reactions in different people some varieties more allergenic than others. Cod and salmon are particularly quite allergenic and known to cause allergic reactions in most people with the issue.

Others include mackerel, anchovies, tuna and sardines. Those who are allergic to one type of fish may develop allergies of other types as well. While you are not necessarily required to avoid all fish, it is important to be watchful, especially when eating in restaurants. You may need to take a break from some seafood and fish. Some soups, salads and sauces also contain different fish residue.

Caesar salad dressing and Worcestershire sauce are specifically top allergenic foods since they contain anchovies and other fish ingredients.

Children who develop allergies to some fish may lose it as they grow into teenage years. In fact, most cases usually fade away the more you consume the fish. However, you should not expect this for all cases as some immune systems simply can’t handle fish proteins and compounds. For such cases, it is important to establish a fish-free diet. It is worth noting that you will only be allergic to various kinds of fish and not all of them.

You can therefore find replacements and still get the needed nutrition and omega 3s found in fish. Like shellfish, some people may experience allergic reactions from inhaling the smell of cooking fish.

Avoid products (including cosmetic creams and cleansers) that contain the particular fish you are allergic towards.

8. Wheat

Wheat is another popular food allergy that affects many people, especially children. There are thousands of different proteins found in wheat and the allergic reaction can be due to one or a few proteins in the wheat.

Most people confuse wheat allergy with celiac disease and gluten allergy. While the two are closely related, they are quite different. Gluten is just one of the proteins found in wheat and not all gluten reactions are caused by wheat.

They occur from consuming any other product like rye and barley which contain gluten. Wheat allergy on the other hand is caused by reaction with one or more proteins. Diagnosis is usually done through skin-prick tests and symptoms range from digestive distress to vomiting, hives, rashes and swelling.

In some severe cases, the patient may experience anaphylaxis and other lethal symptoms. It is important to seek immediate medical attention if you experience such allergic reactions. Children with wheat allergy may grow out of it by the time they hit 10 years of age, but this is not always the case.

Some people have a lifelong problem with wheat and cannot ingest even the smallest portions. Allergic reactions can also be induced by the smell of baked wheat although such symptoms will tend to be sublime. They include nausea, lightheadedness and vomiting. The sure treatment for wheat allergy is to remove it from your diet.

Children may continue to eat wheat products from time to time as they grow into teens. However, this is not recommendable if the first symptoms were very severe. Food items that contain wheat include bread, pasta, cookies, cakes, burgers and various snacks.

9. Sesame Seed

Allergic responses from sesame seed may not get the popularity received from peanut and tree nut allergies, but the symptoms can be just as lethal. The number of sesame seed allergies has been increasing over the last few years mainly due to the rise of products that include sesame seed as part of the ingredients. Most vegetarian dishes and salad dressings use sesame oil and seeds.

This is also common for Middle Eastern and Asian meals. The rise of international cuisine also contributes to the increasing sesame allergies. Sesame oil and seeds is included in pharmaceutical items and cosmetic makeup and lotions.

If you are allergic to sesame seeds, it is advisable to stay away from all products, whether food, drug or cosmetics that contain the ingredient. Symptoms of sesame seed allergy range from gut inflammation to hives, rashes, asthma, respiratory problems and digestive issues. Others include nausea, vomiting, itchiness in the mouth, coughing, flushed face and low heart rate.

Severe cases may also cause anaphylactic reactions. Foods to avoid include sesame breads, tahini and sesame oil. Unfortunately, sesame is one of the hidden allergens you will not easily know about if they appear in packaged products.

It is rare for manufacturers to include sesame in the label, but you can always make an inquiry to be sure, especially if you suffer allergic reactions from sesame. It is not yet known whether children can grow out of sesame allergy so the best advice is to keep them away from food and products that contain sesame.

10. Peach

Fresh peaches hit the market every season and they are very delicious. You can also find peach in products like pie, cobbler, ice cream, jam, turnovers, jelly, cake, muffins, sauce, bars and clafoutis and even scones. Although not popularly described as food allergen, peaches contain a 9 kiloDalton protein called pathogen-related protein-14 which is a known allergen.

This is the protein that causes most peach allergic reactions and the symptoms can range from mouth itching to mild swelling of the tongue, mouth and lips. Others include pharynx (throat) irritations and respiratory problems. Some rare cases have resulted in anaphylactic death.

Those who experience allergic symptoms from eating peaches are advised to completely eliminate it from their diet. It is also recommendable to carry an epi-pen at all times especially during the peak peach seasons when they are abundant in the market. Diagnosis is often done through skin and blood tests.

For severe symptoms, doctors may inject patients with epinephrine to stimulate the immune system and promote nervous functions to avoid anaphylactic shock and death. Most people who experience allergic response from eating fresh peaches will also have the same symptoms from eating food products that contain it.

11. Banana

With all its benefits, it comes quite surprising that banana is among the top fruit allergens known to affect several people.

Banana allergy is believed to occur due to two major reasons; allergy to tree pollen (like birch) and allergy to latex. Allergic reactions from tree pollen like birch usually occur soon after eating banana or up to an hour later. Symptoms include local sores, itching in the mouth, inflammation, and digestive issues.

Other people develop allergic reactions simply because it contains allergens that resemble those found in rubber latex, a condition known as latex-fruit syndrome. The symptoms include urticaria, vomiting and abdominal pain. Some cases may develop into life-threatening respiratory difficulties.

If you have banana allergy, it is recommendable to stay away from the fruit and other foods that may contain it. This includes juices, spirits, syrups, fruit shake, mixed dried fruits, fruit cocktails, yogurts and ice creams.

Others are puddings, energy bars, breakfast flakes, flavoring powders and banana essences, confectionery, fruit sauces and baked goods. It is not common for those with banana allergy to grow out of their condition and safely eat bananas so the best treatment is to simply avoid it.

12. Walnuts

Like tree nuts, walnuts are commonly associated with allergies that can be potentially lethal. However, walnuts are distinct in that they are legumes rather than trees. Nonetheless, the allergy is not that different and those allergic to peanuts will likely experience the same response when they eat tree nuts.

Walnuts allergy affects both children and adults. Fortunately, a good number of children who suffer this form of allergy will not have it by the time they are teenagers.

However, the condition can persist and become life-long especially if you are allergic to all kinds of nuts. It is not known what exactly causes this allergy, but those with a family history of nut allergies are considered to have a high risk of developing it.

Adults with allergic reactions to walnuts are advised to completely keep it out of their diets. If you have a family history of walnuts allergy, it is advisable to introduce them early to your child as this can help resolve the problem. This can be done through the nursing mother’s diet.

Nonetheless, the only treatment currently recommended is total avoidance of walnuts, especially since the symptoms can be lethal. You may also want to avoid other nuts if you are not sure whether they will cause allergic reactions.

Some cases of walnut allergy fade away naturally the more you eat them, but this is only encouraged if the symptoms are mild. If you have this allergy, review any packaged foods you get to make sure there are no walnuts.

13. Kiwi Fruit

Also known as Chinese gooseberry, kiwi fruit occurs as a fruit and in just as many other forms as banana including puddings, confectionaries, syrups, breakfast flakes and mixed fruit drinks.

Kiwi is another common fruit allergen that causes allergic responses in both kids and adults. Like most fruit and vegetable allergies, kiwi allergy manifests in different forms. In some cases, it seems as if the symptoms are as a result of eating the fresh kiwi fruits.

In others, the allergy is more linked to tree pollen and latex allergic reactions. Those who have kiwi fruit allergy will experience symptoms like abdominal pain, vomiting, nausea, throat inflammation and urticaria.

If you experience such symptoms, the best solution is to remove kiwi fruit from your diet and look for it in labels before you eat any food item that you suspect may contain it. Allergies caused by tree pollen can fade away with age if you eat kiwi from time to time.

However, those related to rubber latex may not go away and you will have to stay away from fruits that cause undesirable symptoms. There are different varieties of kiwi including gold and green kiwi, but no difference exists in terms of allergic reactions since those allergic to gold kiwi will still have the reactions from green kiwi. However, green kiwi is known to have fewer allergens.

14. Celery

Celery allergy is one of the common vegetable allergies you should be aware of. In fact, it is listed as one of the 14 major allergens that must be listed wherever it is used.

This directive given under annex IIIa by EU is enough to let you know that celery can cause various allergic responses. Most reactions are primarily due to tree pollen and mugwort pollen. Those who experience allergic reactions from celery are advised to avoid any food item that contains it.

Celery occurs in spice mixtures, broths, soups and salad dressings as well as in blended gut cleansers.

The symptoms are similar to those experienced due to pollen allergy and include throat and mouth itching and inflammation. Skin testing and blood samples may be taken for diagnosis and the recommended treatment will depend on how severe the symptoms are. Subtle to mild symptoms will generally fade away without any treatment.

Severe cases that are close to anaphylaxis may require prompt epinephrine shots to prevent shock and other damages. About 40% of those who are allergic to tree pollen are also allergic to celery root. It is said that doses of up to 700mg may be enough to cause allergic reactions. No total recovery cases have been reported so it is best to stay away from celery if you find it allergic.

15. Mustard Seeds

Mustard seed allergic responses are not as popular as walnut and peanut allergies, but they are just as symptomatic. Mustard seed allergies have been on the rise over the last few years mainly due to the rise of products that include sesame seed as part of the ingredients. Many dishes and salad dressings use mustard oil and seeds.

This is also common for Western and Asian meals. The rise of international cuisine also contributes to the increasing mustard allergies. Mustard seeds and oil are included in cooking supplies, pharmaceutical items and cosmetic makeup and lotions.

If you are allergic to sesame seeds, it is advisable to stay away from all products, whether food, drug or cosmetics that contain the ingredient. Symptoms of mustard seeds allergy range from gut inflammation to hives, rashes, asthma, respiratory problems and digestive issues.

Others are nausea, vomiting, itchiness in the mouth, coughing, flushed face and low heart rate. Worse cases may also cause anaphylactic reactions. Foods to avoid include mustard seeds and oil, bread and desserts that contain the ingredient.

Mustard is another hidden allergen that is not usually featured in packaged products. It is rare for manufacturers to include sesame in the label, but you can always make an inquiry to be sure especially if you suffer allergic reactions from sesame. It is not yet known whether children can grow out of mustard allergy so the best advice is to keep them away from food and products that contain mustard.

16. Aniseed

Like mustard seeds, aniseeds cause allergic responses similar to those characterized by tree nuts. Aniseed allergies are not as popular as the rest mainly since not very many products contain it. However, there is resurgence in the number of products using aniseed and some packaged goods and supplements may contain it.

Aniseed is also pressed to provide oil that is used in various kitchen preparations. You can also find it in cooking products. If you are allergic to aniseed, it is advisable to stay away from all products that contain the ingredient especially since the symptoms of aniseed allergy can be as lethal as any other food allergy.

They include rashes, hives, gut inflammation, asthma, respiratory problems and digestive issues. Nausea, vomiting, itchiness in the mouth, coughing, flushed face and low heart rate are also noted as possible symptoms of severe aniseed allergy.

Anaphylactic reactions caused by aniseed are quite rare and have not been reported but research studies have shown that those with the allergy may develop serious symptoms including anaphylaxis when they consume more aniseeds than recommended.

Aniseed is not often featured in packaged products label so you may need to make an inquiry to be sure, especially if you suffer severe allergic reactions from sesame. It is not yet known whether children can grow out of aniseed allergy, but you may try introducing it at an early age if you have a family history of the allergy. Nonetheless, the best advice is to keep them away from food and products that contain aniseed.

17. Bell Pepper

Bell pepper is another common food item that is linked with allergic responses. Bell pepper can be consumed raw or included in the cooking process to prepare other meals. It can be sautéed or added as seasoning.

Bell pepper is mostly associated with respiratory allergic reactions and symptoms such as difficulty breathing rather than sores and itching in the mouth. Like most pepper allergies, those who suffer from the symptoms may not be able to deal with the ingredient at a later time in their life.

The recommendation therefore is to make sure there is no bell pepper in your recipe. Many who suffer bell pepper allergy also find other kinds of pepper allergic, but this is not always the case.

Some will only suffer bell pepper allergy alone and comfortably consume other peppers without any issues. Some patients report headaches but this is not often classified as a symptom of food allergy. It is common for people who are allergic to bell pepper to also find celery and birch quite irritating.

18. Avocado

Avocado allergy is more like that caused by banana and kiwi fruit. Avocado is one of the vegetables that has several nutritional benefits and is also used in cosmetic products. It is quite surprising that avocado falls among the top fruit allergens known.

There are several people who are totally allergic to avocado and will experience various symptoms even with the slightest of portions. Avocado allergy is believed to occur due to two major reasons; allergy to tree pollen like birch and allergy to latex.

Allergic reactions from tree pollen like birch usually occur soon after eating avocado or up to an hour later. Symptoms include local sores, itching in the mouth, inflammation, and digestive issues. Other people develop allergic reactions simply because avocado contains allergens that resemble those found in rubber latex. The condition is conventionally referred to as latex-fruit syndrome.

The symptoms include urticaria, vomiting and abdominal pain. Some cases may develop into life-threatening respiratory difficulties. If you have avocado allergy, it is recommended that you stay away from it and foods that may contain it. This includes juices, spirits, syrups, fruit shake, mixed dried fruits and yogurts.

Others are puddings, energy bars, breakfast flakes, confectionery, fruit sauces and baked goods. It is highly unlikely that those with avocado allergy will grow out of the allergy so the best treatment is to simply avoid it.

19. Garlic

Garlic allergy is yet another common vegetable allergy you should watch out for and it affects many people including kids and adults. It is also listed under the EU directive and must be featured in labels and food products that contain it.

Most reactions are primarily due to tree pollen and mugwort pollen. Those who experience allergic reactions from garlic are advised to avoid any food item that contains this spice. Garlic occurs in spice mixtures, broths, soups and salad dressings as well as in blended gut cleansers.

The symptoms are similar to those experienced due to pollen allergy and include throat and mouth itching and inflammation. Skin testing and blood samples may be taken for diagnosis and the recommended treatment will depend on how severe the symptoms are. Subtle to mild symptoms will generally fade away without any treatment.

Severe cases that are close to anaphylaxis may require prompt epinephrine shots to prevent shock and other damages. Majority of those allergic to tree pollen are also allergic to garlic. It is also not known if anyone who was once allergic to garlic has overcome the allergy.

20. Carrot

Carrot allergy is comparable to that characterized by celery albeit far less common. Carrots can be consumed raw or cooked with vegetables and other meals.

Allergic reactions caused by carrots are primarily associated with tree pollen and fall under celery-mugwort syndrome. Just like celery, severe cases of carrot allergy have been reported. Most cases are as a result of eating raw carrots and the symptoms tend to be oral. They may include rashes, itches and sores inside the mouth and inflammation of the throat and local mouth areas.

If you are allergic to carrots, it is important to stay away from all products that contain the vegetable including carrot cakes, salads and blended drinks.

You will most likely remain allergic to carrots as tree pollen allergies tend to be lifelong challenges and do not quickly fade away. Severe symptoms are often treated using epinephrine shots, which is the popular first-aid treatment administered to food allergy patients.

Common Food Allergies Conclusion

There are several other food items that can cause allergic reactions. From nuts and seeds to fruits, vegetable, protein, dairy and micronutrients, food allergy is quite broad and different people have different allergies.

The list is probably inexhaustible but these are the 20 most common food allergies you should know about. It is recommended that you seek medical help whenever your child, family member or friend suffers symptoms that can be suspected to be the result of food allergy.

This is very important particularly if the symptoms follow consumption of a high-risk food item. It is also important to note that allergic reactions can happen almost immediately after consuming a given food item OR several hours later after digestion.

Almost all foods have a potential to be allergic depending on the subject. Most people are allergic to at least one type of food and may simply ignore the symptoms or eat them less frequently.

Food allergy is therefore not a disease or disability. In fact, people are encouraged to note down the foods they are allergic to and avoid them as much as possible while taking cautious measures to prevent severe symptoms.

It is also possible to be allergic to a specific protein or compound that is found is several different food items. This may cause confusion and you may think you are allergic to given foods when it is indeed a specific compound.

This is why you should consult a doctor and find out what is causing the allergic reactions. This way, you can identify what food to eat and how you can go about removing certain compounds from your favorite meals.

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