4 Tips to Navigate Food Allergies
Millions of Americans have food allergies. While some may outgrow food allergies, many others do not. Food allergies are common in young children and tend to appear during the first or second year of life.
Food allergies occur when your body's immune system reacts to a substance in a food because it sees that substance as harmful. That substance is usually a protein. This misread signal sets off a chain reaction within your body.
A food intolerance is not the same as a food allergy. Different food intolerances have different causes. An intolerance occurs when your body cannot digest a particular food component, such as lactose, which is a sugar in milk.
More than 160 foods are known to cause food allergies! However, the following nine foods account for most food allergic reactions in Americans:
- Tree nuts (including almonds, walnuts, and cashews)
- Fish (including pollock, salmon, cod, tuna, snapper, eel, and tilapia)
- Crustacean shellfish (including shrimp, lobster, and crab)
As a mom of a child with food allergies, I use these tips to help me navigate:
- Some food allergens have more than one name. Some of them you may not be aware of, so learn about all the ingredients in foods you prepare and eat. Always research new foods.
- Talk with the daycare or school if you have a child with food allergies to make sure they are aware. Similarly, inform co-workers, church members, and family and friends of a food allergy you or your child may have.
- Read food labels carefully. Double- and triple-check food labels even if the item is familiar. Ingredients are sometimes changed without notice. For more information about food allergies, food labels and allergens, and how to read food labels, visit the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s website.
- Meet with a registered dietitian if you need to. A registered dietitian is a food and nutrition expert and can support you through food allergies. When you have to avoid certain foods or food groups, you may not get some essential nutrients, like specific vitamins and minerals. A registered dietitian nutritionist can help ensure you get the nutrition you need for your health and lifestyle.
Bottom line: If you or someone you know has a food allergy, take the necessary steps to eat well with allergies.
For more helpful tips like these and healthy recipe options, visit extension.msstate.edu and join our MSU Nutrition and Wellness FB group.
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