Living With a Food Allergy
A food allergy is caused when the body's immune system mistakes an ingredient in food, usually a protein, as harmful and creates a defense system (antibodies) to fight it. An allergic reaction occurs when the antibodies battle the "invading" food. Although a person could have an allergy to almost any food, the following foods account for almost 90% of all food-related allergic reactions:
Strictly avoiding trigger foods is the only way to prevent a reaction and maintain control over a food allergy. To make sure you eat a well-balanced diet while avoiding allergy triggers, talk to a registered dietician. Here are some tips to get your started.
- Work with your health care provider to develop a written action plan that outlines what to do in the case of an allergic reaction. Make sure friends and loved ones know what to do in an emergency.
- Always take worsening allergy symptoms seriously.
- Diversify your diet by eating fruits and vegetables that are more exotic, especially if you are allergic to those that are more common.
- Invest in a cookbook with recipes that cater to your food allergy. In some cases, common food allergens can be easily removed or substituted in recipes.
- Be aware of any changes in how you feel after eating. Recognizing the onset of an allergic reaction allows you to take quick action.
Always Be Prepared With Food Allergies
- If you or a loved one has a food allergy, be prepared for an emergency. If you have severe food allergies and have medication to prevent anaphylaxis, carry your medicine at all times in case you accidentally eat a trigger food. If you have an anaphylactic reaction, be sure someone knows to take you to the emergency room.
- An organization called "The Food Allergy Initiative" advises people with food allergies to carry a card that lists the foods to which they are allergic. The card can be given to the chef, manager, or server prior to ordering food at a restaurant.