Saturday, October 17, 2009

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? Someone with Allergies!

Do you let your hosts know you have an allergy when you’re invited to their home for dinner? Well, you must! It’s essential! Otherwise you’ll ruin the evening.

Your host spends days and hours preparing a meal, only to have you say you can’t eat it. This means the host, you and the guests feel uncomfortable throughout the dinner.

What is an allergy?

A true food allergy or hypersensitivity happens when:
1. A food is eaten containing an allergen (allergic causing protein) that is not broken down by the heat of cooking, strong stomach acids or enzymes.
2. These allergens enter the bloodstream.
3. Your body’s immune system responds, finding this harmless food harmful.
4. It protects the body by creating (IgE) antibodies.
5. The next time you eat that food, the immune system releases chemicals and histamines to protect the body.
6. These chemicals cause nasty or fatal allergic symptoms.
7. Symptoms can appear within a few minutes to an hour.
8. Adults usually do not lose their allergies.
9. Children can sometimes outgrow them and they don’t return.

Most common allergies:
1. Milk (more common with children)
2. Eggs (more common with children)
3. Wheat
4. Peanuts
5. Soy
6. Tree nuts: almonds, walnuts and cashews (more common with adults)
7. Fish
8. Shellfish (more common with adults)

These foods cause 90 % of allergic reactions.

Other Potential Allergens, or NOT:
* Peanut and soybean oils are so refined; they are free of allergenic proteins.
* "Emerging" food allergens are tropical fruits, sesame seeds, psyllium, spices and condiments (Acta Clin Belg 2001 Jul-Aug;56(4):234-47). We may hear more of them in the future.
* New products on the market: A study (actually many) using a media-attracting fat replacer in the US, found no one had an allergic reaction after eating olestra-containing chips; neither did they test positive for skin prick testing, after a crossover food challenge study (Regul Toxicol Pharmacol 2001 Oct;34(2):178-81). We need not fear a regulated, well-tested food ingredient.
* Genetically Modified foods: the corn, soybeans, canola, and potatoes that you eat could be genetically modified, with new proteins introduced into them. A study found that the protein (potential allergen) in these foods changed and no longer contained allergens. Actually, you don’t have to fear any current products, as they do not involve the transfer of genes from known allergenic sources. (J Allergy Clin Immunol 2001 May;107(5):765-71). Labeling is not required if the allergen was not transferred.
* Allergies in other countries: The food allergy pattern of a country is influenced by the foods most commonly consumed.
* In India, they have chickpea hypersensitivities (Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol 2001 Aug;87(2):140-5).
* In Japan: soy and rice allergies.
* In Scandinavia: codfish allergy.

* Skin: swelling, hives, rashes
* Gastrointestinal: cramps, nausea, bloating, vomiting, diarrhea
* Respiratory: runny nose, asthma, sneezing, tightening of the throat, difficulty breathing
* Oral: itching, swelling and hives in the mouth and tongue
* Systemic: anaphylactic shock - the most severe and potentially fatal. The most common foods are peanuts, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, eggs and milk.

Back to Dinner with Friends or Dining Out:
Just so you know, food allergy is not all that common but you need to know a few rules:
* Avoid the food containing the allergen. This is the first and main step.
* When reading lables, allergens may be "hidden," non-precise or misleading.
* Be extra careful when ordering foods.
* Ask specific questions.
* Be sure your host/waiter understands the different ways an allergen can get into a dish. For example, clam juice may be used in corn chowder, and you may be allergic to clams or other members of the shellfish family.
* Peanuts can cause one of the most serious reactions, and sometimes fatal condition of anaphylaxis. Strictly avoid peanuts for life. (February 2001, Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology).
* If you have severe allergies, keep handy an emergency kit with adrenaline, an antihistamine and an injectable rapid onset-of-action corticosteroid (Acta Clin Belg 2001 Jul-Aug;56(4):234-47). Your physician will recommend a kit.