5 myths about food allergies and intolerances – 08/30/2021

Up to 35% of people misdiagnose themselves and try to deal with it themselves, rather than seeking proper medical advice.

Food allergies are worrisome, but misconceptions around them often hinder the diagnosis and treatment of this condition.

According to recent surveys, up to 35% of people misdiagnose themselves (or their children) with a food intolerance or allergy and then try to deal with it themselves, rather than seeking appropriate medical advice.

Therefore, it is important to clarify which are the five most popular misconceptions that still persist.

1. I have symptoms after eating a food, so it must be an allergy

Not necessarily. Adverse food reactions can occur for a variety of reasons, all of which fall under the generic term “food hypersensitivity”.

This includes reactions that involve the immune system, called food allergies, but also a host of others that do not and are often called “food intolerances”.

Allergic reactions that involve the immunoglobulin antibody are often called IgE-mediated allergies.

They cause symptoms that range from mild, such as itchy eyes, to severe, such as anaphylaxis, a rapid, serious allergic reaction that can cause severe swelling in the throat or tongue, difficulty breathing, low blood pressure, and ultimately death.

These symptoms usually occur quickly after eating the food in question and, when severe, require immediate medical attention.

Other reactions involving the immune system (called a non-IgE-mediated allergy) can cause symptoms that are immediate or slower onset and more chronic in nature, such as itchy reddened skin, heartburn, or loose stools.

Some of them can be similar to symptoms caused by food intolerances.

Although total exclusion of the triggering food is usually necessary in IgE allergy, restricting it may be sufficient in other forms of hypersensitivity, but this will depend on the underlying cause.

2. I can just do an allergy test on the internet

Doing an online search for a diagnosis will likely provide you with a long list of foods that appear to be causing your symptoms.

Many of the tests offered are not based on scientific evidence about food allergies or food intolerances.

This can lead to unwarranted self-imposed dietary restrictions that not only increase the risk of nutritional deficiency, but can also cause anxiety, have a detrimental effect on your social life by making eating out of the home complicated, and ultimately affecting your quality of life. life.

The only evidence-based allergy test currently available is for IgE allergy (immediate reaction). These are skin tests and specific IgE blood tests.

However, even the IgE test requires careful interpretation, because a positive result does not necessarily mean that a person has an allergy.

An oral food test, in which precise and increasing doses of the suspected food are administered, is considered the best method of diagnosing food allergy, but should be performed under medical supervision.

Diagnosis begins with an allergy-focused review of the patient’s history that will point to appropriate testing if necessary.

This should be done by a professional experienced in allergies. So if you’re worried about your symptoms, talk to your doctor.

3. I need to avoid a lot of foods to help control my eczema

This is unlikely. Foods do not cause eczema (an acute or chronic inflammation of the skin), and there are many environmental factors involved in flare-ups, making it difficult to determine whether cutting out specific foods is really helping.

It doesn’t take much effort to find books and websites that suggest a variety of implicated foods, but for most people, proper medical treatment is the key to controlling the disease.

That said, some people with atopic eczema may need to avoid certain foods because of a potentially serious IgE allergy.

Also, excluding specific foods may be beneficial for some and may involve non-IgE food allergies.

However, this requires careful evaluation, so if you feel that your current eczema treatment is not keeping you under control, talk to your doctor before making any dietary changes.

4. Warnings on food labels exist to protect manufacturers

The labeling of foods that cause allergies has improved in recent years with the implementation of new legislation.

But this kind of warning is still viewed with suspicion by some, while causing distress for others, particularly those with potentially severe IgE allergies, where even very small amounts of a specific food can cause immediate symptoms.

The safest approach for some is to avoid all products with these warnings.

In the end, how this is managed depends on personal choice. But understanding what is and isn’t necessary in food labeling is essential to making a fully informed decision about how to manage what you eat and what foods to avoid.

5. I just need to avoid the allergy trigger

Many people on strict diets disagree. There is not only a potential nutritional risk, and the exclusion of certain foods requires careful planning and constant vigilance.

For those with rapid-onset IgE allergy in particular, where accidental exposure to the triggering food can cause severe symptoms, this can result in considerable anxiety.

In fact, there is evidence that having a potentially serious food allergy has a detrimental effect on the health quality of life. Therefore, proper advice and proper management are essential.

With an abundance of information available thanks primarily to online sources, it is more important than ever to make sure you use reliable sources, and to seek appropriate medical advice and treatment if you are concerned about eating-related symptoms.

*Marian Cunningham is Professor of Human Nutrition and Dietetics at Glasgow Caledonian University, UK.

This article was originally published on the academic news site The Conversation and republished here under a Creative Commons license.