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The Types of Food Allergies That You Should Know About

The Types of Food Allergies That You Should Know About

Are you aware of the types of food allergies? This is a fairly common condition. In fact, it is generally estimated that around 2.5% of the world’s population is affected by food allergies. This article will discuss the types of food allergies, symptoms, tests, and treatment for this condition.

What Is a Food Allergy?

Before we discuss the types of food allergies, we need to define what it is first. By definition, a food allergy is a health condition wherein types of food can trigger an abnormal response from the body’s immune system.

The abnormal response comes from the immune system wrongly identifying the protein component of certain foods as being harmful. When that happens, the immune system tries to protect the body through several responses. The most notable response is the release of chemicals. A common chemical released by the body during an allergic reaction is histamine, which leads to inflammation.

While most cases of food allergies are relatively mild, there are cases that are quite severe. These severe allergic reactions can be life-threatening and they are known as anaphylaxis.

Symptoms of Food Allergy

The symptoms of food allergy can manifest themselves within a few minutes of ingesting the food which triggers the allergic reaction in a few hours. Some of the more common symptoms include:

  • Swelling of certain parts of the body such as the tongue, face, and mouth
  • Difficulty breathing caused by the swelling
  • Vomiting
  • Lowering of the blood pressure
  • Diarrhea
  • Hives and itchy skin rashes

Food Allergies vs Food Intolerance

There are cases when food intolerances are mistaken for food allergies. These two conditions may be similar but there are key differences.

The main difference is that a food intolerance does not involve the immune system; rather, it mainly involves the digestive system. Food intolerance happens when a food irritates the digestive system of a person or when food is not digested properly. Lactose intolerance is the most common kind of food intolerance.

Food intolerances are also related to the dose of the food, or how much of it is eaten. Its symptoms only kick in once the person eats a large amount of the food that triggers the condition. Meanwhile, food allergies are typically not dose-related. Even a small amount of a particular food can trigger an allergic reaction.

Another food-related condition that is very different from food allergies is food poisoning. This comes from eating spoiled or tainted food and is not a pre-existing condition of the person eating the food.

Types of Food Allergies

There are two main types of food allergies:

IgE-mediated food allergy. The most common type of allergy, this is triggered when the immune system produces the antibody called immunoglobulin E.

Non-IgE-mediated food allergy. This is caused by cells other than the immunoglobulin E.

Food allergies can also be classified based on the kinds of food that trigger them. Here are some of the more common foods that cause allergies:

Eggs

Egg allergies are a pretty common, especially among children. It is possible to be allergic just to the yolks and not to the egg white or vice versa. This is because of the proteins found in the two parts of the egg.

Cow’s Milk

Allergy to cow’s milk is also quite common among children and even babies. Sometimes, this happens when they are exposed to the protein found in cow’s milk before they are six months old. Children and adults with this type of allergy will show reactions within 5 to half an hour of drinking milk.

Tree Nuts

This is a rather specific form of allergy and is triggered by nuts and seeds that comes from trees. You may be surprised to learn that it is rather common. Some tree nuts that can cause this form of allergy include:

  • Almonds
  • Brazil nuts
  • Cashews
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Pistachios
  • Pine nuts
  • Walnuts

Food products that contain these nuts can also trigger an allergic reaction.

Peanuts

Peanut allergy is one of the most common and well-known types of food allergies. This is different from a tree nut allergy, but those who have one often have the other as well. It is not clear yet what causes peanut allergies, but genetics is a possible factor.

Shellfish

This allergy is caused by the immune system attacking the proteins that come from shellfish such as shrimp, crayfish, lobster, squid, scallops, and prawns. The most common kind of protein found in shellfish that triggers this form of allergy is called tropomyosin.

Soy

Soy allergies usually affect children and infants. This form of allergy is triggered by the protein found in soybeans and products that contain soybeans.

Wheat

Many people have become familiar with wheat allergy in recent years because it is often confused with celiac disease. Wheat allergy is triggered by the proteins that are found in wheat and there are hundreds of those proteins.

Key Takeaway

These are just some of the more common types of food allergies that you should know about. If you suspect that you have a food allergy, consult a doctor.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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Written by Tracey Romero Updated Jun 03
Medically reviewed by Elfred Landas, M.D.
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