D. Wilson, R.D., NaturesOne, Inc.
With a food allergy, the immune system produces antibodies to the protein in the food. The antibodies cause certain cells in the body to release histamines into the bloodstream. Histamine acts on a person’s skin, nose, eyes, throat, and/or GI tract causing allergic symptoms such as a rash, itchy eyes, runny nose and/or diarrhea. This is why antihistamines are usually recommended for allergies to grasses, pollen, cat dander and other allergy causing items in the environment.
Allergy symptoms can occur in minutes or in hours and the severity of the allergic reaction is not possible to predict. Some people may have only a rash develop upon eating a specific food and others can have a life-threatening anaphylactic reaction and require immediate medical treatment with epinephrine after consuming or even touching this same food. To confuse matters, food intolerances are non immunological reactions but may cause symptoms that appear to be a food allergy.
Examples of food intolerances are:
- An enzyme deficiency such as lactase deficiency preventing the breakdown of the milk sugar called lactose causing lactose intolerance
- A reaction to a naturally occurring chemical in the food such as caffeine in coffee or tyramine in aged cheeses •
- A reaction to a chemical added to the food such as artificial flavors, artificial colors, or preservatives When infant’s are weaned to or fed a dairy-based formula, symptoms may arise in a small percent of children that may resemble an allergy.
- When a true cow’s milk protein allergy exists, an infant or child will not be able to consume any dairy products and may also have an allergy to goat’s milk proteins or soy proteins.
In the case of a dairy formula intolerance, not a dairy allergy, the child may only need lactose-free products such as Baby’s Only Organic® Lactose Free Formula or Baby’s Only Organic® Soy Formula or PediaSmart®. Food restrictions are usually less challenging in the case of a food intolerance when compared to the restrictions required in food allergies. Also, food intolerances may only be temporary following a diarrheal illness like the flu which briefly disrupts the body’s ability to produce the enzyme lactase. When symptoms of a food allergy or food intolerance arise, check with a child’s healthcare provider to determine if a food allergy truly exists; what aspects of a food could be causing the symptoms; what foods, if any, to avoid; and how long to avoid the offending foods.