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December 19, 2014
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Food Allergy Information and Recipes

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Like many parents, you may be looking for that quick and easy recipe your whole family loves. But what happens when those recipes contain an ingredient that could place your child with a food allergy in anaphlaytic shock or cause gastrointestinal distress? Your search for that quick and easy recipe becomes more difficult. 

Food allergies occur when a body's immune system reacts to a substance in a food, usually a protein, the body sees as harmful. This begins a series of events within the body. Symptoms can occur within minutes and can be mild – such as a runny nose or itchy eyes, to severe and even life-threatening.

There are over a hundred foods known to cause food allergies; however, 90% of food allergy reactions are caused by the most common eight allergens:

  •        Milk
  •        Eggs
  •        Fish (polluck, tuna, salmon, cod, snapper, eel, tilapia)
  •        Shellfish
  •        Tree nuts (walnuts, cashews)
  •        Peanuts
  •        Wheat
  •        Soybeans

A food allergy is not to be confused with a food intolerance. An intolerance occurs when the body is unable to digest a certain component of a food, such as lactose, a sugar found in milk. This is why those with lactose intolerance may still be able to drink milk as long as they take a supplement such as Lactaid®. Though symptoms of an intolerance, such as abdominal cramping or diarrhea, may be unpleasant, they are not life-threatening.

It isn’t always easy to identify food allergens in recipes or products. With food allergies, the mindful parent becomes an avid food label reader. But sometimes that isn’t always enough. While manufacturers are required to report if any of their products contain common allergens, they may change their ingredients at any time without notice.  Some manufacturers may even indicate if the food was made in a facility that contains any allergens. It is also important to note even cosmetics and beauty products may contain common allergens.

Navigating menu items and food dishes while eating out is also a challenge. Cross-contamination of a food allergen may creep onto an otherwise known safe food through counter-tops and other cooking utensils or equipment. 

As with any medical condition, self-diagnosing isn’t recommended. Once properly diagnosed by a physician, you should seek medical nutrition therapy from a registered dietitian.  A dietitian will help you understand which foods and food ingredients are safe to eat and how best to avoid items that may cause a reaction. 

It is also important to consult a dietitian as when foods are cut from your child’s diet, you may be eliminating important vitamins and minerals needed for growth and development. The popular “gluten- free” fad not only provides challenges to eliminate gluten completely, it may also be increasing caloric intake, resulting in weight gain. In addition, eliminating gluten decreases the intake of important nutrients like iron and B vitamins children normally consume from enriched and fortified foods like cereals, bread and pasta. 

Finally, discuss your child’s food allergies with caregivers, teachers, nurses and school administration and prepare for treatment and response plans to adverse reactions.  This may be include completing the proper forms your school requires as well as any educational sessions deemed necessary. 

Remind them of cross-contamination safety such as cooking allergen-free meals first, then keeping it covered and away from any splatter caused by other foods that are cooking. Additionally, ensure hands, utensils and pans are thoroughly washed with soap and water. For more information on separating foods, visit www.homefoodsafety.org.  

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