Itchy, Sneezy, Wheezy – Are allergies getting you down?

With allergy awareness week just around the corner, I thought it important to spend some time highlighting an issue often overlooked when dealing with various symptoms.

Allergies develop when the body mistakes a specific food or environmental substance as a threat.  Looked at in the most basic terms, an allergic reaction is simply a message from the body that a particular substance is not welcome.

The immune response involves an army of soldiers or white immune cells which attack these allergens as if they were dangerous health invaders to our bodies.

When this attack occurs, chemicals are released. It is these chemicals which cause the unpleasant symptoms we know to be associated with allergy. This overreaction to a harmless substance is often called a hypersensitivity reaction.

The most common allergies are hay fever (rhinitis) and asthma, endured by 37+ million people. During the spring and summer particularly, grass pollen fills the air with microscopic particles that enter the body and trigger the sneezing, runny nose, tearing eyes and overall misery of hay fever.

The most common causes of Type I Hypersensitivity reactions are flowers, grasses, tree pollens, animal dander, house dust, yeast and certain drugs and food, in addition to bee and wasp venom.  Of the food allergens, the most common are milk, eggs, crustacean shellfish (crab, lobster, shrimp etc.), tree nuts (almonds, walnuts, pecans), peanuts, wheat and soybeans.

Food allergies can also be linked to a condition called leaky gut syndrome.  This comes from a long period of abuse to your stomach and intestines (gastrointestinal tract).  Too much sugar, caffeine and refined foods ingested for years regularly creates expansion of the tiny openings in the semi-permeable membrane in the small intestine.

This expansion in turn allows large undigested food particles to pass through and into the blood stream.  These particles are then seen by the immune system as a threat which leads to an “army attack”, releasing histamine and other chemicals and again resulting in unpleasant symptoms.

Allergic reactions to food range from mild to severe:

Itching or swelling in the mouth- face, tongue or lip swelling- coughing or wheezing dizziness or light-headedness-  flushed skin or rash-  gastrointestinal symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal cramps and pains- hives or eczema- trouble breathing- a decrease in blood pressure- anaphylaxis (which can be life-threatening),

Food Allergy Diagnosis

Diagnosis of a food allergy starts with a thorough medical history including symptoms, food intake and allergy medicines. Also, a diet diary and symptom diary may provide helpful details.

Additionally, skin prick tests and blood tests may be used to identify food allergens.


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