What Everyone Ought to Know About Food Allergies

What Everyone Ought to Know About Food Allergies

Food allergies are a natural part of life. And they can be a total PAIN to deal with if you are new to it. But let’s be honest– dealing with the allergic reactions (such as hives or abdominal discomfort) is a much BIGGER pain.

Food Allergies 101

Whether or not you suffer from food allergies yourself, chances are you know someone who does. In fact, researchers estimate that nearly 15 million people in the US have a food allergy, and about 6 million of them are children.

Over 170 foods have been reported to cause allergic reactions, and about 8 of those make up for roughly 90% of food allergies. These most common food allergens are:

  1. Peanuts
  2. Tree nuts
  3. Milk
  4. Eggs
  5. Wheat/Gluten
  6. Soy
  7. Fish
  8. Shellfish

Quality of Life

Some may think a food allergy isn’t a big deal, but they may not understand that food allergies can completely alter someone’s life. In some cases, it can be fatal. In others, it could mean abdominal pain and discomfort. And for many, complete chaos–What used to be a simple thrown-together last-minute meal, now turns into a long, drawn-out process where you have to read EVERY food label your recipe calls for.

Food allergies are no joke. Common reactions include hives, trouble breathing/swallowing, indigestion, abdominal pain, nasal congestion, rapid heartbeat, anaphylactic shock, and even death.

The Bad News, and the Good News

First, the bad news: Food allergies are becoming more prevalent. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control & Preventions states that food allergies in children rose by 50% between 1997 and 2011.

Now, the good news: Because of its prevalence, more research has been done on it, and more people are understanding food allergies better. Manufacturers and retailers know there’s a growing group of people suffering from food allergies. And because of this, there are more products on the market that offer allergy-free foods (like Jolly Llama’s Sorbet Cream Pops, which are dairy free and gluten-free).

Tips to Working with Food Allergies

Although researchers say that many will outgrow their food allergies, many will not. So here are some tips to help you work around food allergies:

  1. Read food labels carefully. Know your stuff and do your research. If you are allergic to gluten, then you need to know what foods have gluten in it.
  2. Only keep allergen-free food in the kitchen. By doing this, you eliminate a lot of headache and stress when it comes to cooking. If you MUST have an allergen food in the house, it is best to store it away from the kitchen (where it could be eaten by mistake).
  3. Use ingredient substitutions. There is a wide variety of ingredients to use in recipes, and many of them can be substituted for allergen-free foods. For instance, if you are baking cookies and it calls for eggs (your allergy), you can substitute it out for mashed bananas or flaxseed with water.  Don’t be afraid to experiment and try new things. Use this website for tips and alternatives.
  4. Make others aware of yours (or your child’s) allergy. Having a food allergy isn’t exactly something you can easily spot. Don’t always expect others to ask if there’s a food allergy  either. Instead, inform your employer, the school teacher, the babysitter, your family, your friends, your neighbors, etc. of the allergy so they can be prepared with alternatives.
  5. Provide allergen-free treats to share. If you are invited to an event (or your child to a birthday party) where you are worried there won’t be any food alternatives, bring your own to share! This way you, or your child, won’t feel left out.
  6. Be Supportive. When hosting an event where you will be serving food, it is courteous to ask if anyone has a food allergy. This way you and your guests will feel comfortable.

Because there is no cure for food allergies, the best we can do is learn how to manage and work around them. Understanding how they work, and how to help those who suffer, is a first positive step in the right direction.

What is something you do to manage your food allergy?

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