An allergy is created when the immune system responds to a substance that it thinks is harmful – and the result is an allergic reaction. These substances can be anything from pollen to peanuts and they’re known as allergens.
How familiar are you with the common types of food allergens?
The 14 Allergens
Most food allergens can be sorted into 14 groups. They are as follows:
- Celery – celery and celeriac.
- Cereals Containing Gluten – pasta, bread, crackers, and seasonings.
- Crustaceans – shrimp, lobster, and crab.
- Eggs – all types of egg.
- Fish – fish and other fish products.
- Lupin – pizza, pancakes, and products containing crumb.
- Milk – all dairy products.
- Molluscs –octopus, oysters, and snails.
- Mustard – all foods containing mustard.
- Nuts – all nuts. Eg. almonds, cashews, chestnuts, pecans, pistachios etc.
- Peanuts – peanuts and all peanut products.
- Sesame – sesame seeds and sesame oil.
- Soy – soya, tofu, soy sauce, and soy bean.
- Sulphites - sulphur dioxide and other sulphites.
You Are Not Alone!
The chance of you having an allergy is actually very high - at least one in four UK residents are known to suffer from at least one allergy. So if you’re experiencing allergic reactions it’s extremely important that you know what you are allergic to.
And there are ways of testing this! If you’re sneezing, have a runny/blocked nose, red/itchy/watery eyes, or are getting a rash from a substance, you can contact your GP and they will assess whether you are allergic to said substance. They’ll do skin prick test which is both quick and painless, so children can also get it done without any trouble too.
Unfortunately, there are no cures for food allergies. This can prevent some people from having a healthy balanced diet, because it can be an inconvenience to find substitutes to the foods that they’re allergic to. But it can be a lot simpler than you think…
The Big Eight Nutrients
Food companies’ always bear allergies in mind when they create their packaging!
Have you ever read the side of the bottle of a fizzy drink or the back of a cereal box? If yes, you’re probably familiar with the “big eight nutrients” that appear on the nutrition label. It looks something like this:
(The picture shown is not a good example for a healthy diet!)
This simple layout allows you to easily glance at some of the main nutrients that are needed to achieve a balanced healthy diet. This is the perfect tool for any allergy-sufferer that wants to maintain a balanced diet. Although not all of them are displayed on the image, the Big Eight Nutrients are; Energy, Carbohydrates, Sugars, Fat, Saturated Fat, Fibre, Protein, and Salt.
The Science Behind Allergies
When we’re exposed to an Allergen, an Antigen Presenting Cell vacuums up new Antigens and presents them to other cells. The T cells then send a signal out that turns on our “B cell antibody factory” which pump out IGE Proteins that bind specifically to the allergen. These IGE proteins then bind onto a Mast Cell (for the next time that the allergen enters the body), and when that happens, the body makes a chemical called Histamine. You’re probably familiar with this process involving pollen, but some foods have high histamine levels, which can cause a runny nose, redness in the nose, and irritated eyes. These high-level histamine foods contain - and are not limited to - shellfish, beans, nuts, chocolates, salty snacks, and pickled foods.
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