There is no treatment for food allergy other than avoiding the food in question, but this isn’t always as simple as it sounds. If you are allergic to eggs, for instance, you have to avoid everything containing eggs. Besides carefully checking the labels of all commercially prepared foods, this also means speaking to your doctor about vaccines made with egg residues, which include injections for flu and yellow fever.
If you are highly allergic and have had an anaphylactic reaction in the past, avoiding the food in question can be a matter of life or death. Constant vigilance is required because the smallest amount of the allergen can set off a reaction. Just 1/44,000 of a peanut kernel can trigger a reaction in someone highly allergic to peanuts. Less sensitive people may be able to tolerate small amounts of the allergic food. Still, it’s wise to avoid these foods altogether and remove them from your home. Here’s what to look for:
Check labels of food products for the following offending ingredients: “egg,” “egg white,” “dried egg” or “albumin.” And avoid these products:
1. Cakes and cookies, unless homemade with egg-free recipes using commercially available egg replacements. Make sure you buy “replacements” not “substitutes,” which can contain egg white.
2. Chocolates, marshmallows and fondants
3. Soups containing egg noodles (including alphabet soup), or any other soup made with eggs
5. Custards, puddings, ice cream, filling for cream pies including coconut, lemon and pumpkin pies
6. Eggnog and egg creams
7. French toast, fritters and pancakes
8. Muffins, rolls, bagels, donuts, or any bread that contains egg. (Most breads do not contain eggs, but check ingredient lists carefully to be sure.)
9. Meatloaf and other meat, chicken or fish dishes made with egg or dipped in batter containing eggs
12. Egg substitutes
13. Sauces and salad dressing containing eggs: hollandaise, dressing for Caesar salad, Russian dressing, mayonnaise-based dressings
Check labels carefully for the following ingredients: “milk,” “whey,” “dried milk solids,” “casein,” “lactalbumin,” “sodium casemate,” “potassium caseinate,” “calcium caseinate,” “butter,” “cheese,” “margarine” and “curds.” Do not eat any of the following foods:
5. Acidophilus milk
6. Ice cream and ice milk, sherbets made with milk or frozen yogurt
7. Cream sauces and soups, white sauces
8. Butter or margarine (except parve)
10. Baked goods made with milk, including breads
11. Mashed potatoes and other vegetables prepared with milk, cheese, butter or cream
12. Instant cocoa, breakfast mixes and cereals containing dried milk.
Check labels to be sure that even small amounts of wheat are not present in the list of ingredients. Words that indicate there’s wheat include “wheat,” “flour,” “wheat germ,” “wheat starch,” “bran,” “modified food starch,” “graham flour,” “farina” and “semolina.” Avoid these products:
1. Bread, crackers and other baked goods (except those made without wheat; rye bread and cornbread usually contain wheat)
2. Most cereals
3. All pasta and noodles made from wheat
4. Fried chicken and other fried foods dipped in bread crumbs or flour made from wheat
5. Meatloaf and other foods containing bread crumbs, cracker crumbs, cereal or other forms of wheat. This includes most sausages, hot dogs and some cold cuts.
6. Sauces and gravies thickened with flour
7. Prepared salad dressings thickened with flour or other forms of wheat
8. Pancakes, waffles and fritters What People Mistake for Food Allergies
There’s a lot of confusion about food allergies. Often a symptom related to the ingestion of particular food has nothing to do with the immune system and, therefore, is not an allergic reaction. Indigestion? Maybe. Lactose intolerance? Possibly. Food sensitivity? Could be. Several conditions can be mistaken for an allergic reaction.
9. Lactose intolerance – Some people cannot tolerate dairy products because they lack the enzyme, lactase, needed to digest lactose (milk sugar). If lactose intolerance is your problem, you probably develop gas, cramps or diarrhea when you consume dairy foods. Some people are affected only when they have larger than usual amounts of these foods, and most lactose-intolerant people can tolerate hard cheeses, yogurt and sour cream without developing symptoms. Lactose intolerance can be diagnosed with a blood test.
10. Asthma – People with asthma can develop attacks after eating foods containing sulfites, additives used to keep food looking fresh and to retard mold growth. Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration now bans the use of sulfite sprays on fresh fruits and vegetables, they still are used in dried fruit and other foods. Sulfites also develop naturally in wine during fermentation.
11. Celiac disease – In this uncommon condition, cells lining the small intestine are damaged by gluten, a protein in wheat and other grains. The main symptoms are gas and bloating. Celiac disease usually develops in childhood but can begin at any age. If you or your child is affected, you will have to avoid breads and other foods that contain gluten. That can be a challenge, since many foods contain hidden grains.
12. Reactions to specific foods – Some people can’t eat beans, peas, broccoli or cabbage without developing uncomfortable intestinal gas. Others develop indigestion and diarrhea after eating mushrooms or drinking certain wines. While the symptoms sometimes are confused with food allergies, they aren’t caused by an allergic reaction.
13. Reactions to food additives – In susceptible people, the food additive monosodium glutamate (MSG), which often is used in Chinese food, can bring on symptoms that include dizziness, sweating, ringing in the ears and a feeling of faintness. This “Chinese restaurant syndrome” actually is an intolerance to MSG, and not a food allergy. In rare instances, another food additive, yellow dye number 5, can cause hives.
14. Food poisoning – Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea caused by food poisoning or by an infection, such as gastrointestinal flu, can be mistaken for a food allergy. Food poisoning stems from contamination with bacteria or other microorganisms, while gastrointestinal flu is a viral infection that affects the digestive system. A bout of food poisoning mistakenly labeled as an allergy can affect dietary choices for years to come.
15. Histamine toxicity – You can develop an allergylike reaction to foods containing histamine, a natural substance involved in the allergic process. Foods high in histamine include cheese and some wines. Certain kinds of fish, particularly tuna and mackerel, are high in histamine, but the high levels may be due to contamination if the fish wasn’t properly refrigerated.