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various foods that can cause food allergy healthmint

6 Things You Need to Know About Food Allergies

By Children's Health, Chronic Disease, Nutrition

What is a food allergy? 

Food allergies are an immune system response to a food protein that the body mistakenly believes is harmful. When a person eats a food containing that protein, this causes the immune system to have a large reaction, triggering symptoms that can affect a person’s gastrointestinal tract, skin, breathing and/or heart.

In Australia, food allergy is estimated to affect 1-2% of adults, 4-8% of children and 10% of infants under 5 years of age (https://allergyfacts.org.au/allergy-anaphylaxis/food-allergy). Some of them will experience life-threatening allergic reactions.

Are food allergies on the rise in Australia? 

Australia takes the cake as the allergy capital of the world, and according to research from the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, has the highest published rates of food allergy in children! 

Several factors have been identified by researchers as to the reason why the rates are rising: 

  • Modern, urban lifestyles.
  • Vitamin D deficiencies – this is thought to change immune system development.
  • Changing the modern diet – the gut has been altered by increases in processed foods and food manufacturing along with higher sugar diets over the last 50 years. 
  • Avoidance of allergens during the first phases of an infant eating solids – it is now recommended that all children, regardless of family history of allergen, are exposed to allergenic food during the first 12 months of life. 

Which foods cause allergies?

While there are more than 170 foods known to have triggered severe allergic reactions, the most common triggers of allergic reactions in childhood are: 

  • Egg
  • Peanuts
  • Tree nuts 
  • Cow’s Milk

Fish and shellfish allergies are most common in adulthood. 

food allergies healthmint include prawns eggs nuts fish

Less common (but still major) food allergies include: 

  • Sesame
  • Soy
  • Wheat 
  • Kiwi fruit
  • Banana
  • Chicken
  • Mustard 
  • Celery

Peanut, tree nut, sesame and seafood allergies are usually lifelong. 

Children often outgrow cow’s milk, egg, soy and wheat allergy at some point throughout childhood but there are a few who may continue the allergies into adulthood.

What are the symptoms of food allergies?

Some food allergies can be severe, causing life threatening reactions known as anaphylaxis. 

Food allergy is the leading cause of anaphylaxis outside a hospital setting.

Allergy symptoms range from hives, rash, swelling of the mouth, vomiting to difficulty breathing, persistent dizziness, swelling of the throat and loss of consciousness and sudden collapse. 

If left untreated, there is a chance these symptoms can be fatal. 

Deaths from food allergies are rare. There are more fatal allergic reactions to medications and insect bites and stings than there are to foods.

Food intolerance is not life threatening, however it can cause milder reactions like digestive pain, gas, bloating and nausea. 

It is important to know the difference so you can get medical attention if you or your child experiences an allergic reaction 

symptoms of food allergies - healthmint lady scratching arm

What are the treatment options for food allergies? 

Currently there is no cure for food allergies and avoidance is the only way to prevent a reaction. Even after a successful diagnosis of food allergies, avoiding trigger foods is challenging and accidental exposures are common. 

Adrenaline is the first line treatment for severe allergic reactions and can be administered by an auto-injector called the EpiPen.

epipen for food allergies children healthmint

It is important for people with allergies to get a correct diagnosis and explore the best currently available therapies with their doctor (link). It is also important to be educated about the risk of severe allergic reactions and be prepared to treat with an EpiPen, as well as having regular reviews of an allergy action plan. 

Long term actions to reduce the risk of the next generation developing food allergies include: 

  • Following recommendations for introduction of allergenic foods such as peanuts and eggs into the diet in infants in the first year of life 
  • Avoiding exposure to smoking 
  • Having a healthy and well-balanced diet and maintaining a healthy lifestyle
  • Increasing the levels and absorption of Vitamin D

young child with food nut allergy healthmintAre food allergies different to food intolerances?

Adverse reactions to foods occur in a small proportion of the population. These reactions are not the same as allergies, but may include:

  • Irritable bowel symptoms, colic, bloating, diarrhoea 
  • Migraines, headaches, lethargy, irritability
  • Rashes and swelling of the skin, asthma, stuffy or runny nose

With the processing and manufacturing of foods in modern times, added ingredients including food additives, food colourings, processing aids and extra inclusions of naturally occurring food components such as lactose and gluten can be a cause of food intolerance. 

To properly diagnose a food intolerance under medical supervision and guidance, you can start by eliminating all suspect foods from the diet and reintroduce them one by one to see which food or component of food causes a reaction.

If you think your child (or yourself) has a food intolerance, it is important to seek advice and clarification from a medical practitioner since the symptoms may be related to any number of other conditions. 

lactose-intolerance-milk-cereal

Lactose Intolerance Symptoms and Treatments

By General Wellbeing, Lifestyle, Nutrition No Comments

Lactose Intolerance is a phrase that is commonly thrown around, but many people don’t realise the signs, symptoms, treatments and that yes! you can still consume some of your favourite dairy foods!

What is lactose intolerance?

Lactose intolerance comes from the body not having enough lactase enzymes in order to digest lactose.

What is lactose?

Lactose is a milk sugar that is broken down by the enzyme lactase, which is found in the small intestine. It is present in milk based products such as yoghurt, cream and cheese.

How do I know if I am lactose intolerant?

What are the signs/symptoms?

Symptoms may include:

  • Bloating
  • Gas
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhoea
  • Flactulence
  • Stomach cramps
  • Vomiting

Please note that these can also be common symptoms for many other conditions and it is important to speak with your GP before removing foods from your diet.

Does this mean I can never have milk or milk products again?

No! Everyone has different tolerance levels to lactose and therefore if you undertake tolerance testing with your dietitian you can assess how much lactose you can personally have. Generally speaking, many people can tolerate small quantities over time (depending how much you eat and eating it with other foods. For example, someone may be able to tolerate milk in their cereal but not tolerate a whole glass of milk OR they can tolerate milk in their coffee but not tolerate a bottle of strawberry Big M. Full cream milk seems to be better tolerated than low fat milks.

There are lactose free milk products in your local supermarket. If you enjoy the taste of cows milk then look out for labels that say ‘lactose free’

I love milk – what are some tasty alternatives?

Soy milk, almond milk and other milk alternatives do not contain lactose – but check the labels to ensure they are calcium enriched.

 

Are lactose free products available?

In recent times the lactose free product range has exploded into supermarkets. You definitely won’t miss out or feel left out when shopping for your favourite items like ice-cream!

How can I manage my intolerance to lactose?

If I am eating at a restaurant or am away on holiday and I’m not sure of the lactose content of some of the menu items, how do I help prevent the discomfort?

You can purchase lactase tablets or drops from your local pharmacy which can be added to food or taken along with food to help with digestion.

How to shop for and check the ingredients list at the supermarket

If you are trying to avoid lactose, ingredients to look for in lists on food labels include:

  • Milk solids
  • Non-fat milk solids
  • Whey
  • Milk sugar

Foods that may contain hidden lactose include:

  • Museli bars
  • Scrambled eggs
  • Quiche
  • Cheese sauces
  • Custard
  • Some breads and margarines
  • Pancakes
  • Processed breakfast cereals
  • Cakes and muffins

Can I eat cheese?

Hard cheeses are naturally low in lactose and can be safely consumed without symptoms and discomfort.

Some of these cheeses include:

  • Cheddar
  • Edam
  • Swiss
  • Mozzarella
  • Brie
  • Feta

Also, butter and cream actually contain very low levels of lactose and are well tolerated.

However, there are also lactose free cheeses readily available  at the supermarket

If you have lactose intolerant children

Meal planning with kids can be hard enough at the best of times, let alone when they have an intolerance. Thankfully there are many healthy options for your little ones with clear labels and ingredients you can feel confident about. 

Saabira Wazeer is an Accredited Practising Dietitian and Accredited Nutritionist at HealthMint.

She educates and helps clients manage lactose intolerance, including tolerance testing through trials.

To read more about Saabira and watch her introduce herself visit: www.healthmint.com.au/ourteam

Find out more about our Dietitian services head here: www.healthmint.com.au/our-services/dietitian/

Check out the Dietitians Association of Australia here: https://daa.asn.au/smart-eating-for-you/smart-eating-fast-facts/medical/understanding-lactose-intolerance/

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