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Food Allergies

How To Cope With Food Allergy

Thursday, March 22, 2012 - 15:45

Contributing Author: Guy Slowik FRCS

Most people with food allergies will be put on an elimination diet (one from which foods suspected of causing an allergic reaction are removed). It may be difficult to stop eating some foods, such as those made with wheat or milk. Fortunately, there are many foods on the market that substitute for the more common allergy-provoking foods.

Creating a food plan

Avoiding accidental ingestion

Creating A Food Plan

For help in restricting your diet after a food allergy diagnosis, consult your doctor or a registered dietitian. Dietitians can help design a food plan, suggest alternative foods or ingredients to replace forbidden ones, and provide instruction on reading food labels.

You may find it helpful to use an allergy-free cookbook, which gives recipes that omit common food allergens. Prepared allergen-free items, such as rice bread and soy beverages, are available at health food stores and some grocery stores.

It is not always possible to avoid the offending food. Your physician may give you medication to treat symptoms resulting from food allergies.

Need To Know:

A special note: individuals with wheat allergy are being told that they may eat spelt grain products. However, if you have true wheat allergy, you will react to spelt as well, and this is an unsafe substitution.

Need To Know:

A word of warning about elimination diets

They should not be too restrictive and they must be nutritionally balanced. Sometimes people allow their food restrictions to reach such extremes that they develop food aversions verging on eating disorders. Proper diagnosis and counseling by an allergist and a dietitian are crucial in maintaining a nutritionally complete diet.

Avoiding Accidental Ingestion

Despite precautions, people with histories of food reactions sometimes unknowingly consume a food to which they are allergic. This can happen when the person is unaware of an ingredient in a dish someone else has prepared. Or perhaps the offending ingredient is not on the label or is expressed in a term that does not clearly describe the ingredient.

People with severe food allergies need to be aware that tiny amounts of allergens left on pots, pans, and cooking utensils can contaminate other foods (cross-contamination now also termed "cross-contact"). To avoid this kind of danger, people with severe food allergies are advised to make certain that pots, pans, and cooking utensils are carefully washed with soap and water after each use to remove any traces of forbidden foods.

How-To Information:

How to avoid allergy-provoking foods

Read all food product labels.

  • Read the ingredient list on food labels carefully to check for foods that are off-limits.
  • Be especially careful with foods that have hydrolyzed protein on the label. This is usually a vegetable protein, but sometimes tuna fish or hot dogs contain hydrolyzed milk protein. This milk protein is not safe for people who are very allergic to milk.
  • Since food manufacturers often change ingredients, you must always read labels, even ones on foods you are familiar with.

Ask about ingredients.

  • When you eat dishes served in restaurants or by friends, ask whether the meal contains the specific food or foods you are allergic to.
  • Be aware that common recipes sometimes contain unusual ingredients. One person who was very allergic to peanuts died after eating chili containing peanut butter.
  • If you are in a restaurant, be sure that the servers can communicate your questions and concerns to the kitchen staff.

Ask about preparation.

  • Ask the cook how the food was prepared.
  • Food sometimes is cooked in peanut oil, for instance. Peanut oil that is not highly purified (as in a cold-pressed or natural oil) will have enough peanut protein to create a reaction in someone allergic to peanuts.
  • Also, peanuts cooked in any oil (canola, olive) will make the oil peanut-protein (allergen) containing oil; using the oil may cause an allergy. If there is any uncertainty about the oil, do not eat it.

Don't take a chance.

  • Question restaurant staff about ingredients.
  • If the server does not know what is in a dish, ask the chef.
  • Don't eat the food-or leave the restaurant-if you are not certain about the ingredients.

Protect your child.

  • If you have a child with food allergies, tell your child's caregivers what foods your child must avoid.
  • Make sure the adults know what to do in case of a severe food reaction.
  • Encourage your child to ask whether foods contain allergens.

Bring your own food to parties.

  • If you have many food allergies or intolerances, you may want to bring a dish that you know you can safely eat when you go to a party.

 

Food Allergies