Author: Elizabeth Rago
Food allergies affect an estimated 6 to 8 percent of children under age 5, and about 3 to 4 percent of adults, according to the Mayo Clinic. When you have a food allergy, your immune system mistakenly identifies a specific food as a harmful substance, triggering the body to release antibodies to muster symptoms like hives, itching of the mouth, trouble breathing and possibly, an anaphylactic reaction.
Avoiding dishes with ingredients you are allergic to can be a daunting task, but crucial to your health. While food allergies can develop at any time of your life according to the United States Department of Health and Human Services, many food allergies can be identified in children.
Here are five ways to help avoid food allergies:
1. Listen to your pediatrician – If you have children, heed the advice of your practitioner by gradually introducing solids to them at the suggested age and have an action plan of health that fits your lifestyle and individual needs. A study at Children's Hospital and Hospital of Allergic Diseases at the University of Helsinki in Helsinki, Finland states “a 17-year nonrandomized study reported that, compared with short or no breastfeeding, 6 months of exclusive breastfeeding is associated with less eczema and food allergy at ages 1 and 3 years and a long-term allergy protective effect on the respiratory allergy during adolescence.”
2. Know your ingredients and ask – Reading labels is a simple way to steer clear of elements in food that cause your body to react violently. Many packaged meals and dishes served in restaurants contain ingredients and additives that wouldn’t normally be associated with certain foods. Do not be afraid to ask for nutritional information and when in doubt, politely decline questionable food.
3. Cook more – learning how to cook and getting friendly with your own ingredients will help you become more educated about food preparation. Investing in classes at a local cooking school or establishments like the Williams-Sonoma Lincoln Park Cooking School in Chicago will not only help you cook tasty dishes, but learn more about local, fresh and sustainable ingredients.
4. Define it – food allergy or intolerance? Often confused with an allergy, food intolerance can be diagnosed by health care professionals by collecting your individual history with your personal reaction to food consumption, the logging of a diet diary, blood or skin prick tests.
5. Bring your own meals and look for “Go-To” Guides - when traveling outside your own comfort zone of eating, don’t be afraid to bring your own food to events to prevent the exposure of potentially dangerous ingredients. Seek out “Go-To” Guides like this gluten-free guide from A NEWtricious Digest.
Severe allergic reactions call for immediate help, so carrying an epinephrine autoinjector (EpiPen) is necessary for individuals who have serious food allergies. Becoming more familiar with ingredients and cooking styles will allow you to modify your menu to complement your body’s natural unique need for nutritious food. Living with allergies is not only possible but enjoyable today thanks to gluten-free recipes, alternatives to flour and an overall awareness of nutritional labels and food suitable for individuals with food sensitivities.
Elizabeth Rago is a freelance writer specializing in health, wellness, and women’s lifestyle content, working with yoga studios, chiropractors, mental health, and wellness practitioners. Elizabeth writes the weekly column, The Circular Home for Chicago Shopping (an editorial partner of the Chicago Tribune) and is Senior Editor of All Things Girl, highlighting topics related to the modern domestic woman. She has been published in Mamalode Magazine, MOMentumNation.com and thesavvyfreelancer.com. Connect with Elizabeth on Twitter, LinkedIn, Houzz, and Google+.