Have you ever wondered what common food allergens are and why they initiate an allergic reaction? If yes, then this write-up will surely resonate with you! Surprisingly, almost every food item can trigger an allergic reaction, but WHO has identified eight common food allergens responsible for most of the allergic responses.
These common food allergens have some proteins identified as foreign substances or allergens by the body. In response, the immune system initiates an allergic reaction through digestive issues, hives, or swelling in air passages.
Not only do the patients and their family members need to know about food allergens, but people in the food service business must also be conscious of different allergens and how to make the dishes using their substitutes for sensitive people. Cross-contact during cooking can occur when the same spoon is used for hamburgers and scooping out peanut butter. Let’s learn more about common food allergens and food allergy treatment in detail.
8 Most Common Food Allergens
Some of the most common food allergens are:
Cow’s milk allergy is common among younger children, presenting as skin rashes or swelling around the mouth, face, and eyes. The child can show digestive problems like vomiting or diarrhea and hay fever. The cow’s milk allergy can be of 2 types:-
- Immediate cow’s milk allergy symptoms appear within minutes of having milk.
- Delayed CMA symptoms appear after several hours or days.
The milk allergy produces symptoms like hives or rashes, wheezing, itching and swelling in and around the mouth, cough, difficulty in breathing, vomiting, and also form severe symptoms like anaphylaxis.
One of the leading allergy-causing food items is eggs, and egg allergy manifests within a few minutes to a few hours after eating eggs. The symptoms can range from skin irritation, hives, and runny nose to vomiting or other signs of GIT disturbance.
Peanuts cause another common allergy attack. Some individuals with peanut allergies can get triggered by even tiny amounts of peanuts, and this condition can also become life-threatening if anaphylaxis takes place. This type of allergy is more common among children and can produce symptoms like hives, redness, itching, digestive issues like diarrhea or vomiting, difficulty in breathing, runny nose, and others.
4. Tree nuts
Tree nut allergies are common in both children and adults. Common tree nut allergies are walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, pecan, cashews, and pistachios. The symptoms vary from a mild rash, swelling of lips, eyes to anaphylaxis .
If a person is sensitive to soy products, then the proteins present in the soy get attached to particular IgE antibodies, which are made by the individual’s defense mechanism, which results in allergic symptoms that can be mild to severe. The common symptoms are nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, diarrhea, itching, and eczema, to a severe anaphylactic reaction.
A wheat allergy occurs in response to food items that contain wheat. The body’s immune system produces allergic reactions after the consumption of wheat; in some cases, it can also be due to inhalation of wheat flour. The primary intervention involved in wheat allergy is avoiding wheat, but it is tough to avoid it altogether. Wheat is a hidden ingredient of popular food items like soy sauce, ice cream, and hot dogs. Wheat allergy can produce symptoms like headache, swelling, nasal congestion, wheezing, hives, and others.
Wheat allergy is sometimes confused with celiac disease, but the diseases are very different. Wheat allergy is when the body forms antibodies against the proteins in the wheat. However, in celiac conditions, a protein in wheat known as gluten develops an abnormal defense system reaction.
If you are allergic to fish, then your immune system will overreact in response to the proteins present in the fish. Whenever the sensitive individual consumes fish, the body identifies the proteins present in the fish as a harmful invader and secretes chemicals called histamines. It produces symptoms like difficulty in breathing, wheezing, vomiting, diarrhea, coughing, hives, or low blood pressure leading to loss of consciousness.
8. Shellfish Allergy
Shellfish allergy is also one of the types of food allergies. Shellfish are water animals with rugged exteriors in the form of shells. Shellfish are of two types: crustaceans, such as crabs or lobster, and mollusks, such as oysters, clams, and mussels. This allergy produces symptoms like swelling around the mouth, itching on the skin, cough, nasal congestion, stomach ache, dizziness, and others.
What is Cross-Reactivity in Food Allergies?
Cross-contact occurs when one food comes in contact with the other and the proteins in these food items mix. As a result, each food item contains small amounts of mixed food. This usually happens in restaurants where many food items are simultaneously cooking, and accidentally, the stirring utensils get mixed up.
Therefore, it is essential for people working in the food industry to be aware of common allergens and to follow safe cooking practices to avoid such cross-contamination.
Common Food Allergens: An Ayurvedic Perspective
Ayurveda emphasizes on the concept of Asatmayata which means that certain food items are incompatible to a person due to their unique constitution, dosha dominance, or some external factors. Some of the food allergies based on dosha dominance are as follows:
- Vata Prakriti (Vata unique constitution): these individuals can be allergic to food items that are dry, spicy, and cold in nature.
- Pitta Prakriti (Pitta unique constitution): these individuals can be allergic to food items that are sour, spicy, or salty in nature and therefore, should avoid excessive consumption of these food groups.
- Kapha Prakriti (Kapha unique constitution): these individuals can be sensitive to food items including dairy products and salty foods.
Prevention and Management Principles of Food Allergies
Let’s understand the prevention and management principles of food allergies as per the Ayurvedic concept:-
1. Restoring Doshas Equilibrium
The ancient healing system believes in restoring internal harmony by balancing the three elements or doshas. Allergies can be managed by following a kapha-pitta pacifying diet. When the allergens trigger the immune system, they release different chemicals, and therefore, they alleviate pitta as they maintain the chemical functions in the body.
2. Eating a Balanced Diet
After understanding the body’s unique constitution, everyone must eat as per the balance of the doshas and not take food from different groups, like sweet and sour. Milk and sour fruits should not be taken together.
3. Following Daily and Seasonal Routine
Ayurveda emphasizes the implementation of dincharya, or daily routine, and ritucharya, or seasonal routine. These practices strengthen the immune system and promote physical, mental, and spiritual well-being.
4. Herbal Treatment
Some specific herbs are anti-inflammatory and immune-modulating in nature as well as strengthening the gastrointestinal system to be able to digest certain proteins. These herbs establish internal harmony and strengthen the immune system to manage food allergies from their root cause effectively.
5. Digestive Fire (Agni)
Ayurveda believes in maintaining an intense digestive fire or Agni to prevent the formation of Ama or harmful toxins as it creates an imbalance within the body and when the digestive fire is weak it is unable to perform its basic function of digestion properly.
6. Purification Therapies or Panchakarma
Ayurveda recommends detoxification therapies vaman, virechan, and basti to remove the collected toxins from the body and maintain the internal homeostasis balance of the body.
7. Stress Management
According to Ayurvedic concepts, physical and mental health are correlated; many times stress is the reason for an allergy flare up therefore, managing stress through relaxation practices such as yoga, meditation, and pranayama is essential.
Some of the common food allergens are milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, fish, wheat, and shellfish. These allergens trigger the immune system to initiate an allergic reaction and manifest symptoms like hives, redness, or difficulty breathing. Ayurvedic science can offer natural and holistic approaches to managing food allergies effectively.
If you or your loved one suffers from food allergy or intolerance, you can consult with Dr. Sahil Gupta. Book your appointment for a consultation now. IAFA is one of the most trustworthy institutions committed to improving the world through its original and holistic approach. IAFA’s team treats all types of allergies using 100% natural and herbal products.
Arora, D., & Kumar, M. (2003). Food allergies–leads from Ayurveda. Indian Journal of Medical Sciences, 57(2), 57–63. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/14514269/