Few things interfere with your ability to eat the diet you want, whether in terms of nutritional content or your preferred flavors, than having a food allergy. Of course, allergies are more than just an annoyance; they can sometimes turn deadly. This means that early diagnosis, effective management and rapid treatment are vital (https://longevity.technology/lifestyle/food-allergies-causes-symptoms-and-treatment/) (https://longevity.technology/lifestyle/what-are-food-allergy-home-testing-kits/).
First, I should probably explain what I mean by a food allergy as it’s a term that can cause confusion. People mix up personal preferences, food sensitivities and intolerances with allergies all the time. An allergy is an immune reaction caused by a mix of genetic and environmental factors. It wrongly identifies a substance (in this case, a food or particular protein or chemical in that food) as a threat and releases antibodies to fight back, causing an inflammatory response. You may experience itching, swelling, skin rashes, diarrhea, vomiting or breathing problems. The most severe type of allergic reaction is anaphylaxis, which can be fatal without immediate treatment.
The big culprits in food allergies are dairy, eggs, wheat, nuts, peanuts, fish, shellfish, soy and sesame, although other sources are possible. The overall percentage of people with allergies is about 8% of the population, although the frequency of different types varies by country. Childhood allergies may disappear in adulthood, but there’s no specific cure.
That means diagnosis and management are key. The best way to avoid allergic reactions is to avoid foods to which you are allergic. Traditionally, identifying allergens required the help of a medical professional, but there has been a rise in home testing methods. These range from elimination diets to blood tests and skin prick tests.
Elimination diets involve removing the suspected allergen from the menu and seeing if that stops your symptoms. Blood testing looks for the antibodies associated with allergic reactions. A skin prick test is when you place a small amount of suspected allergen on your skin, then prick the flesh to see if a hive/bump develops. Oral testing, when you swallow a small amount of allergen, is highly effective, but can be dangerous because of the higher risk of anaphylaxis. It must only be carried out in the presence of a medical professional.
There are multiple options for diagnosis if you suspect you have an allergy, some more accessible than others. Although home testing kits exist, it’s always best to consult an expert.