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What you need to know about food allergies

July 7, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
The peanut butter sandwich you ate gave you an upset stomach, so you think you have a food allergy - maybe, or maybe not. Many people wrongly assume they are allergic when a product causes some negative bodily response. Here's what you need to know about food allergies.Dietitian Susan Dopart, author of Recipe for Life, says common and often painful symptoms might indicate an intolerance, but they do not signal allergy.

"If you have a true food allergy, you'd be going to the hospital. You'd have trouble breathing, your throat could close, you could die," Dopart said.

There has been some studies done on introducing small amounts of peanut product in children who have this allergy, but it is somewhat controversial and limited at this time. The general rule is to avoid the food you are allergic to altogether.

A quarter of Americans say they're allergic to some type of food, but research indicates only 2 percent actually do. Those with intolerance or sensitivity have some options.

"There's a certain percentage of the population that has lactose intolerance, meaning they don't contain in their gut the enzyme lactase, which helps them digest the lactose," Dopart said.

Lactose intolerance varies with both dairy food and individual. Taking a lactose-digesting enzyme product can help.

Then there's those whose stomach reacts to whole grains, vegetables, even nuts due to digestive troubles, resulting in a stomachache.

Dopart says it may help if you chew your food very carefully, have a small amount and introduce it slowly over time.

Gluten-free foods have become immensely popular. It's a must for those with Celiac Disease and helpful for those gluten sensitive.

But according to Dopart, only 1 percent of the population has Celiac Disease.

"I actually think a lot of people who think they're gluten intolerant or gluten sensitive actually have a carbohydrate sensitivity," she said.

Dopart says start by cutting back on starchy carbohydrates, but don't self diagnose. A blood or biopsy test offers real answers.

When dining out, remember you are the patron. Don't be afraid to ask questions like these:

  • Tell me what is in the food?
  • How is it prepared?
  • What kind of condiments do you use?
  • What type of oil do you fry in?
  • (For gluten sensitive) Do you prepare wheat free products in separate area and separate cookware and utensils?

And if the waiter doesn't know, then ask to talk to the chef!

The most common trigger foods include peanuts, eggs, fish, milk, shellfish, soybeans, tree nuts and wheat.


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