QWhat is a food allergy?
A food allergy is an adverse reaction of the body’s immune system to a type of food. Dr. Chandrasekara said such food allergies are a result of sensitivities caused by a reaction of the body’s immune system to specific proteins in the food.
“Allergens are almost always naturally occurring proteins found in food. Any food that contains protein has the theoretical potential to elicit allergic sensitization and, upon subsequent exposure, to cause an allergic reaction in the sensitive individual” Dr. Chandrasekara added.
QWhat are the symptoms related to developing a food allergy?
Elucidating on the symptoms evident in the body upon developing a food allergy, Dr. Chandrasekara pointed out that in allergic individuals, a food protein is mistakenly identified by the immune system as being harmful.
In addition to the above, food allergies may include symptoms of nausea, hives, abdominal pain, swelling of the lips, face and tongue, dizziness and nasal congestion.
QAre food allergies a genetically associated health problem?
Stating that Celiac disease is a genetic disease giving rise to food allergies, she said the symptoms were triggered by the consumption of gluten. “The main sources of gluten in the diet are cereal grains. The only current treatment for celiac disease is to continually maintain a strict gluten-free diet” she said.
QAre food allergies fatal?
Stating that food allergies can be fatal, Dr. Chandrasekara said any type of food could provoke an immune response in allergic individuals. However, she added that only certain foods were responsible for the majority of food allergies in individuals. She also said food allergies could occur at any age regardless of a vulnerable age group.
Peanuts, tree nuts (almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, pecans, pine nuts, pistachio nuts and walnuts), sesame seeds, milk, eggs, fish (including shellfish and crustaceans), soy, wheat and sulphites are food types that could generally trigger a food allergy/ food poisoning in individuals.
QWhat precautionary steps can an individual take to avoid being vulnerable to food allergies?
The only reliable means of treatment are avoidance diets according to Dr. Chandrasekara. “Pharmacologic and other therapeutic methods of prevention of food allergies do not exist. Drugs such as epinephrine (adrenaline) and antihistamine can be used to treat symptoms that develop during an allergic reaction” Dr. Chandrasekara said. She also added that food-allergic individuals should read labels to avoid the offending foods and ingredients.