How do I know what foods I'm allergic to?

Is there a simple test one can take?

Posted Answers


Most people are allergic to foods that they crave because those foods give them a psychological high.

Recent estimates suggest that about 10% of the population exhibit clinical symptoms attributable directly to food hypersensitivity and food intolerance. Many more suffer from other allergies or ill defined medical problems which may be aggravated by their diets.

Food allergies are divided into two major categories:
Permanent or fixed allergies: Approximately 5% of food allergies are fixed allergies in which a patient already knows the offending foods which disagree with him. In such cases the relationship between food and symptoms is obvious.
Concealed or masked allergies: Approximately 95% of food allergies fall into this category in which a patient is not aware of the foods that disagree with him. These allergies therefore require special diagnostic testing with follow-up counseling and education. Masked allergies are associated with the foods that a susceptible individual eats frequently.
Food Intolerance Test:
In the food intolerance test a food allergen and patient blood, rich in white cells and platelets, are mixed together, incubated and observed under a phase contrast microscope. In the presence of allergenic foods, the red cells, white cells and platelets show toxic effects during which the white cells (neutrophils) become immobile and die and/or the platelets aggregate. In sharp contrast the red cells, white cells and platelets remain healthy with nonallergenic foods.

The food intolerance test diagnoses fixed as well as masked allergies. Reports in the literature indicate a 70% success rate in patients who underwent the food intolerance test and dietary manipulations. The skin test, on the other hand, has been reported, at best, to have a 20% accuracy in diagnosing food allergies1.

List of Foods Tested: click here

Common Symptoms of a Food Allergy: click here

Allergy Management: Diagnosis of food allergy is only the first step in allergy management. Using a detailed dietary list and a rotary diversified diet2 may help patients eliminate the causes of current and future symptoms of food reactions.

Appointments: If you are interested in having this test done, please call us at 847-640-1377 to schedule an appointment. Or, contact us with your physician information (name and address) so that we can mail a blood drawing kit to them. In turn you will make an appointment with your doctor to have your blood drawn. Note - a prescription from a licensed physician is required for this test.

1Updegraff, T.R.: Ear, Nose and Throat Journal 56, 48-64, 1977.
2Since many food allergens are only mildly toxic and most food allergens will produce a toxic reaction if consumed in excess, it is desirable to diversify the foods and food groups consumed. A Rotary Diversified Diet provides a varied menu in which foods from the same family are consumed not more frequently than every fourth day.

Food allergies: Food labels list top 8 allergens
Food labels list the top eight food allergens to help you avoid an allergic reaction.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires food manufacturers to list common food allergens on food labels in simple terms that adults and older children can understand. Common allergens are listed either in the ingredients list, after the list, or right next to it. The labeling requirements are designed to reduce your chances of an accidental allergic reaction to a food.

Revised in January of 2006, the updated food label takes some of the guesswork out of label reading, helping you easily identify foods that could cause an allergic reaction. For example, most people mistakenly believe that nondairy means that there is no milk in a product. Before the label guidelines were revised, the use of "nondairy" was allowed even when the foods contained milk byproducts. If a product contains casein, a milk-derived protein, the product's label now lists the term "milk" in parenthesis after the term "casein." Or, the label will simply state "Contains milk." This simple approach is especially helpful for kids with food allergies who may be choosing their own snacks.

The food allergens
While food labels don't include every possible allergen, they do list the top eight, which account for 90 percent of all documented food allergies:

Tree nuts (such as almonds, cashews, walnuts)
Fish (such as bass, cod, flounder)
Shellfish (such as crab, lobster, shrimp)
This list also represents the foods most likely to cause a severe or life-threatening allergic reaction (anaphylaxis).

Allergens and food labels
Here are answers to a few common questions about food label requirements.

What foods are labeled? Any domestic or imported packaged food regulated by the FDA is required to make these labeling changes.
What's included on the label? The label lists the type of allergen — for example, the type of tree nut (almond, walnut) or the type of crustacean shellfish (crab, shrimp) — as well as any ingredient that contains a protein from the eight major food allergens. The labels also include any allergens found in flavorings, colorings or other additives.
What foods aren't labeled? Fresh produce, fresh meat and certain highly refined oils do not require listing of potential food allergens on the labels. Foods that may inadvertently come into contact with a food allergen during the growing, harvesting or manufacturing process also are exempt.
In addition to the current food labeling changes, the FDA is working to tighten regulations for manufacturers' use of the term "gluten free" on food labels. Gluten is a protein that occurs in grains such as wheat, barley and rye. This protein can cause a serious reaction (though not an allergic one) in people who have celiac disease, a digestive disorder. About 2 million people in the United States have the disease. Often people with celiac disease are unsure about which foods contain gluten. The FDA will issue standards for what constitutes a gluten-free product by 2008.

What this means for you
"If you have a food allergy, the new labeling should help you avoid exposure to even small amounts of a food allergen, something you haven't been able to do before," says James Li, M.D., an asthma and allergy specialist at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

If you think you have a food allergy, but haven't been tested, see your doctor. Without specific testing, you won't know whether or how much or how little exposure might trigger a serious allergic reaction.

"Not all people with food allergies are at significant risk when exposed to very small quantities of food," says Dr. Li. "Work closely with your doctor to develop a personalized plan to reduce your risk of inadvertent exposure to the food you're allergic to."

Labels reveal the details
Although the new food-labeling law helps you make safe choices, it might also raise your eyebrows. The law requires food allergens to be identified even in the smallest amounts. As a result, you might notice some surprising ingredients on food labels, such as soy lecithin used as a nonstick agent for baked goods or fish gelatin used in coloring for soup broth.

Food allergen awareness: A refresher
If you have a food allergy, follow these steps to increase your chances of avoiding an allergic reaction:

Practice prevention. Always know what you're eating and drinking. The best way to prevent an allergic reaction is to avoid foods that cause allergy signs and symptoms.
Know about hidden food allergens. Some food allergens may be well hidden when used as ingredients in certain dishes. This is especially true in restaurants and other social settings, such as church or neighborhood gatherings or homemade foods brought into the workplace.
Be proactive when dining out. There's more to preventing an allergic reaction than just avoiding food choices based on a restaurant's menu description. You'll need to ask specific questions about ingredients and how each dish is prepared.
Read and reread. Even though a food product may have been safe the last time you purchased or consumed it, it's possible that the ingredients have changed or the label has been updated. If you have a food allergy, be sure to always read food labels.
Identify your allergy. Wear a medical alert bracelet that describes your allergy and carry an alert card in your wallet or purse. These items are available over-the-counter at most drugstores and can be purchased on the Internet.
Prepare to counteract a reaction. Talk with your doctor about whether you should carry an emergency medication in case of an allergic reaction.

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