Quantcast
Popular
iStock

8 Most Common Food Allergies

By Helen West

Food allergies are extremely common. In fact, they affect around 5 percent of adults and 8 percent of children—and these percentages are rising (1).

Interestingly, although it's possible for any food to cause an allergy, most food allergies are caused by just eight foods (2).

This article is a detailed review of the 8 most common food allergies. It discusses their symptoms, who is at risk and what you can do about it.

What Is a Food Allergy?

A food allergy is a condition in which certain foods trigger an abnormal immune response (2).

It's caused by your immune system wrongly recognizing some of the proteins in a food as harmful. Your body then launches a range of protective measures, including releasing chemicals like histamine, which causes inflammation.

For people who have a food allergy, even exposure to very small amounts of the problem food can cause an allergic reaction.

Symptoms can occur anywhere from a few minutes after exposure to a few hours later and they may include some of the following:

  • Swelling of the tongue, mouth or face
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Low blood pressure
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Hives
  • Itchy rash

In more severe cases, a food allergy can cause anaphylaxis. Symptoms, which can come on very quickly, include an itchy rash, swelling of the throat or tongue, shortness of breath and low blood pressure. Some cases can be fatal (3).

Many food intolerances are often mistaken for food allergies.

However, food intolerances never involve the immune system. This means that while they can severely impact your quality of life, they are not life threatening.

True food allergies can be divided into two main types: IgE antibody or non-IgE antibody. Antibodies are a type of blood protein used by your immune system to recognize and fight infection (4).

In an IgE food allergy, the IgE antibody is released by your immune system. In a non-IgE food allergy, IgE antibodies aren't released and other parts of the immune system are used to fight the perceived threat.

Here are the eight most common food allergies.

1. Cow's Milk

An allergy to cow's milk is most often seen in babies and young children, especially when they have been exposed to cow's milk protein before they are six months old (5, 6).

It's one of the most common childhood allergies, affecting 2–3 percent of babies and toddlers (7).

However, around 90 percent of children will outgrow the condition by the time they're three, making it much less common in adults.

A cow's milk allergy can occur in both IgE and non-IgE forms, but IgE cow milk allergies are the most common and potentially the most serious.

Children or adults with an IgE allergy tend to have a reaction within 5–30 minutes of ingesting cow's milk. They experience symptoms like swelling, rashes, hives, vomiting and, in rare cases, anaphylaxis.

A non-IgE allergy usually has more gut-based symptoms like vomiting, constipation or diarrhea, as well as inflammation of the gut wall (6).

A non-IgE milk allergy can be quite difficult to diagnose. This is because sometimes the symptoms can suggest an intolerance and there is no blood test for it (8).

If a diagnosis of a cow's milk allergy is made, the only treatment is to avoid cow's milk and foods that contain it. This includes any foods or drinks that contain:

  • Milk
  • Milk powder
  • Cheese
  • Butter
  • Margarine
  • Yogurt
  • Cream
  • Ice cream

Breastfeeding mothers of babies with an allergy may also have to remove cow's milk and foods that contain it from their own diets.

As for babies who aren't breastfeeding, a suitable alternative to a cow's milk-based formula will be recommended by a health professional (9).

Summary: A cow's milk allergy mostly affects children under the age of three. A diagnosis of cow's milk allergy means that all milk and milk products must be avoided.

2. Eggs

An egg allergy is the second most common cause of food allergy in children (10, 11).

However, 68 percent of children who are allergic to eggs will outgrow their allergy by the time they're 16 (12).

Symptoms include:

  • Digestive distress, such as a stomach ache
  • Skin reactions, such as hives or a rash
  • Respiratory problems
  • Anaphylaxis (which is rare)

Interestingly, it's possible to be allergic to egg whites, but not the yolks and vice versa. This is because the proteins in egg whites and egg yolks differ slightly.

Yet most of the proteins that trigger an allergy are found in egg whites, so an egg white allergy is more common (11).

Like other allergies, the treatment for an egg allergy is an egg-free diet (13).

However, you may not have to avoid all egg-related foods, as heating eggs can change the shape of the allergy-causing proteins. This can stop your body from seeing them as harmful, meaning they're less likely to cause a reaction (14, 15, 16).

In fact, one study found that around 70 percent of children with an egg allergy could tolerate eating biscuits or cakes containing a cooked egg component (17).

Some studies have also shown that introducing baked goods to children with an egg allergy can shorten the time it takes for them to outgrow the condition (18).

Nevertheless, this isn't the case for everybody and the consequences of ingesting eggs when you are allergic to them can be severe. Because of this, you should check with your doctor before you reintroduce any egg-containing foods.

Summary: The most common type of egg allergy is an egg white allergy. The treatment is an egg-free diet. However, some people may be able to reintroduce some foods containing cooked eggs into their diet.

Next Page
Show Comments ()
Sponsored
The turkey ranch in Sonora is where Diestel keeps its pasture-raised birds. Jeanne Cooper

Popular Diestel Turkey Sold at Whole Foods Tests Positive for FDA-Prohibited Drugs

Diestel Turkey, sold by Whole Foods and other retailers at premium prices, says on its website that its "animals are never given hormones, antibiotics or growth stimulants."

But Diestel Turkey samples tested by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) suggest otherwise, leading consumers to wonder: Can these companies be trusted?

Keep reading... Show less

Slaughter of 90,000 Wild Horses Could Proceed Despite 80% Objection From American Public

The American Wild Horse Campaign on Thursday harshly criticized Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke's appointment of Brian Steed, the former chief of staff for U.S. Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT), as the acting director of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) as dangerous and out of step with the wishes of the vast majority of Americans.

"Rep. Stewart is leading the charge to slaughter America's wild horses and burros over the opposition of 80 percent of Americans," said Suzanne Roy, AWHC Executive Director. "Putting his deputy at the helm of the agency charged with protecting these national icons is like putting the wolf in charge of the chicken coop."

Keep reading... Show less
Renewable Energy

Bright Idea: This Lamp Harvests Its Own Energy From Plants

Now that's green energy. Dutch product designer Ermi van Oers and her team are working on the first atmospheric lamp powered by living plants.

The Living Light does not require an electric socket. It can harvest its own energy through the photosynthetic process of the encased plant, which means the potential of this off-grid light source could be "huge," as Van Oers told Dezeen.

Keep reading... Show less
Climate

Landmark Youth Climate Lawsuit Heads to Federal Appeals Court

There has been a significant development in the constitutional climate change lawsuit so far successfully prosecuted by 21 youth plaintiffs: The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has decided to hear oral argument over whether the Trump administration can evade trial currently set for Feb. 5, 2018. Oral arguments will be heard before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco on Dec. 11 and can be watched on a live stream beginning at 10 a.m. PST.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Climate
Martin Schulz / Flickr

Pope Francis: These 4 'Perverse Attitudes' Could Push Earth to Its Brink

Pope Francis issued a strong message to negotiators at the COP23 climate talks in Bonn, Germany on Thursday, warning them not to fall into "four perverse attitudes" regarding the future of the planet—"denial, indifference, resignation and trust in inadequate solutions."

Francis, who has long pressed for strong climate action and wrote his 2015 encyclical on the environment, renewed his "urgent call" for renewed dialogue "on how we are building the future of the planet."

Keep reading... Show less
Climate
The Greenpeace ship Esperanza sits near the Statoil contracted oil rig Transocean Spitsbergen. Greenpeacce

Groups Sue Norway Over Failure to Protect Environment for Future Generations

By David Leestma

Greenpeace and the Nature and Youth environmental group opened a lawsuit this week over Norway's failure to abide by its constitutional obligation to safeguard the environment for future generations.

The lawsuit, which focuses on local environmental damage and the contribution that oil extraction will make to climate change, challenges 10 licenses issued by the Norwegian government for exploration in the Barents Sea. Given to Statoil, Chevron and other oil companies, the licenses violate Norway's constitution and the Paris agreement, according to the plaintiffs. Government lawyers claim the case is a publicity stunt that risks valuable jobs.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Food
Lia Heifetz of Barnacle Foods hauls kelp for salsa. Bethany Sonsini Goodrich

A Plea for Kelp: These Farmers and Chefs Want to Make Seaweed the Next Superfood

By Sarah Bedolfe

Summer in southeast Alaska is kelp season for the cofounders of Barnacle Foods, Lia Heifetz and Matt Kern. Each week, the pair watches the tides and weather, waiting for the right moment to cruise out to the abundant kelp beds offshore. They lean over the side of the boat and pull up the fronds and stalks, one piece at a time. As soon as they get back to shore, they start processing the day's harvest into a local delicacy: kelp salsa.

Salsa and Alaskan algae might seem like odd bedfellows, but for Barnacle Foods, it's a calculated decision. The kelp's savory notes make the salsa's flavor "a little more explosive," according to Kern. And the pairing is also a practical one. "Salsa is such a familiar food item," Heifetz said. It's "a gateway to getting more people to eat seaweed."

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
Lorie Shaull / Flickr

Massive Pipeline Leak Shows Why Nebraska Should Reject Keystone XL

About 210,000 gallons (5,000 barrels) of oil leaked Thursday from TransCanada's Keystone oil pipeline near Amherst, South Dakota, drawing fierce outcry from pipeline opponents.

The leak, the largest spill to date in South Dakota, comes just days before Nebraska regulators decide on whether its controversial sister project—the Keystone XL (KXL) Pipeline—will go forward.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!