Food Allergy Basics

*For my Writing for Interactive Media Class I picked Food Allergies as my topic. I’ll be re-posting my assignments here for your enjoyment. I’m not an expert, this is just me trying to learn more and share what I learn. Here’s the basics*

I recently attended a Food Bloggers Conference called Eat Write Retreat. This conference was full of fun sessions on topics such as: writing a sponsored post, food photography, SEO optimization, and more. I also made new friends, contacts, and memories.

While talking with the other bloggers I was shocked at how many had food allergies, or  have family members with food allergies. I would never have thought that people with severe food allergies would be so into food blogging. It’s so widespread, however, that there are apparently online communities for food bloggers with specific allergies. There are gluten-free, peanut-free, tree-nut free, dairy-free, and other allergy related communities that bring people with common issues together to share experiences and recipes.

One blogger, Heather, told me about how she’s highly allergic to tree nuts (this does not include peanuts). Growing up tree nuts were never really an issue for her, but over time she noticed a slight tingling sensation on her tongue when she ate walnuts. She didn’t think much of it until one day after a nap her one year old daughter woke up with swollen joints. She brought her daughter to the doctor and allergist, who explained that it must be a tree nut allergy. She asked about her own symptoms and was told that she’s definitely allergic too and should stop eating walnuts immediately.

Another woman at the event, Atoosa, is worried that she’s developing an allergy to walnuts and pineapple since she’s been feeling the strange tingling/itching feeling when she eats them. I’ve been emailing with her since the conference ended, and she recently said she had walnuts in a salad for the first time in weeks, and then immediately got strep throat. It might not be related to potentially having a tree nut allergy, but she is concerned.

How can people be fine one day, and allergic to deliciousness the next? Apparently it’s very common, and is referred to as sudden-onset symptoms.

The term Food Allergy refers to your immune system having an abnormal reaction to the proteins in a food. There can be many types of symptoms, because our immune systems like to mess with us, so it can be hard to figure out what’s going wrong at first.

What actually triggers an allergic reaction? I think I’ll let the doctors answer this one:

In people with “classic” food allergies, allergic antibodies, called IgE, develop in response to proteins in certain foods. When the person is exposed to that protein at a later time (eg, by eating peanuts), binding of the food protein to IgE triggers a release of chemicals, which cause the symptoms of an allergic reaction. This typically occurs quickly, within minutes to two hours after eating.  – Wesley Burks, MD, University of Carolina 5/24/2013

To put it simply – you know how the immune system likes to attack and destroy the bad things that enter our systems? In this instance our immune systems get all confused and attack harmless proteins from food, which causes allergic reactions. It’s not cool, not fun, but it’s our body’s way of trying to be helpful. It seems to me like good intentions gone wrong.