The Most Common Food Allergies

Allergies to proteins in food are extremely common. In fact, 32 million Americans have food allergies, which are most often discovered in childhood. However, adult-onset food allergy is also common and on the rise. 

Despite the necessity of food for health and functioning, the body may mistake proteins in food as harmful and mount a defense. What follows is a chain of chemical and physical reactions that result in food allergy symptoms. Our experts at Illinois Gastroenterology Group want our patients to be well-informed about food allergies.

Understanding food allergies

A food allergy is an abnormal immune response triggered by food. Symptoms can range from mild to life-threatening. An allergy is different from a food intolerance or sensitivity, because food intolerance and sensitivity do not involve the immune system. 

There is one treatment for food allergy: completely avoiding the offending food.  

Symptoms of food allergy may include:

Food allergies can cause severe symptoms. Seek immediate medical attention if you experience:

The most common food allergies

It’s possible to have an allergic reaction to virtually any food, and there are more than 170 foods that are documented to cause allergic reactions. You’re more likely to have a reaction to certain foods that are known as the “Big 8.” 

They are:

Adult-onset food allergy on the rise

Food allergies in adults are commonly underdiagnosed. You may not suspect that a food allergy is behind your symptoms if you’ve eaten certain foods for years without a problem. Many people are unaware that it’s not only possible to develop food allergies in adulthood, it’s common and on the rise. More than 12 million adults first developed their food allergy in adulthood.

When food allergies strike in adulthood, the “Big 8,” with the exception of cow’s milk, are the most common culprits. Adults are less likely to develop an allergy to cow’s milk. Additionally, fewer adults develop egg or wheat allergies for the first time.

How do I know if I have a food allergy?

Anyone suspicious of a food allergy should schedule an appointment with a specialist. Our gastroenterologists have experience diagnosing and treating food allergies in people of all ages.

Symptoms of food allergy may mimic other conditions. Symptoms aren’t always obvious, and delayed reactions are also common.

Diagnosing food allergies

If you or your child has food allergy symptoms, it’s wise to inquire about testing. Skin prick is the most common method of testing for food allergies. This involves pricking the skin with tiny amounts of various foods. Developing a small, red, raised bump is indicative of a positive skin prick test. If the test is inconclusive, your provider may order other tests, such as blood tests, to check for antibodies to specific food proteins.

Managing food allergies

After receiving a food allergy diagnosis, it is imperative to avoid the food(s) you’re allergic to. Depending on the food you’re having a reaction to, this may be simple or may take some adjustment. Checking food labels and menus, as well as inquiring about ingredients in foods you order from restaurants helps ensure that you avoid allergens.

If you have, or suspect that you have, a food allergy, the providers here at Illinois Gastroenterology Group can help. To learn more, schedule a visit. We have offices in Elk Grove Village and Arlington Heights, Illinois. 

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