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The 10 Most Common Food Allergies

The 10 Most Common Food Allergies


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1. Eggs

Eggs are great for protein, energy, and filling you up. But to those who are allergic, eating eggs in any recipe can be rather unpleasant. While mostly children less than 5 years old suffer from this allergy and often outgrow it, some carry it into adulthood. There is no cure or treatment for an egg allergy, though you can be regularly tested to see if your tolerance for them changes. Sadly, eggs are not always listed as "egg" on labels. Watch out for the terms albumin, globulin, lecithin, livetin, lysozyme, words with "ova" and "ovo" as prefixes, silici albuminate, simplesse, and vitellin. These all imply that egg protein is present. These can even be in shampoo or other cosmetic products!

Substitute: Avoiding eggs while eating out can be tough, but at home, egg-free cooking doesn't have to be. Surprising replacements in recipes include everything from cornstarch to flaxseed oil and even tofu.

2. Milk

Milk only does some bodies good. Many mistake a milk allergy for lactose intolerance since many of the symptoms are similar, but a milk allergy occurs when the body's immune system reacts abnormally to milk proteins, while lactose intolerance involves digestive problems as a result of being incapable of breaking down certain enzymes. See an allergist to determine the difference. Milk allergies generally afflict infants, who often grow out of it. However, to those who’ve carried this allergy into adulthood: Beware many processed foods, because milk's high protein content and properties make it an "ideal" ingredient.

Substitute: There are a few options to consider when choosing a milk alternative, and it’s best to follow an allergist’s advice to determine which route is best for you. Some people's allergies may be limited to cow's milk, and drinking other animal milk may suffice. One familiar alternative is soy milk, but since allergies to soy are common as well, proceed with caution. A creamy, nondairy substitution may be coconut milk, but some steer clear because of its overpowering taste.

3. Peanuts

This salty, nutty treat is often responsible for many serious allergic reactions. When the body identifies peanut proteins as harmful, the immune system releases symptom-causing chemicals into the bloodstream, causing mild to severe allergic reactions. Unfortunately, peanuts are in many products, so if you discover that you’re allergic, be sure to scrutinize the labels of any processed food or prepared meal. Whether you eat or inhale products cross-contaminated with peanuts, you could be susceptible to anaphylaxis.

Substitute: CBS News recently reported that scientists may have found a way to "cure" food allergies by tricking the immune system. But until that day, if you can't resist the taste of peanuts (especially decadent treats like peanut butter), Sunbutter Natural Crunch, a peanut-, gluten-, and tree nut-free sunflower spread is a safe and tasty alternative.

4. Soy

Sushi lovers may have soy to blame for allergic reactions rather than the fish. Soy allergies can be introduced to infants through soy-based formula, and in this case are often detected early. Though soy seems like an easily identified allergen, it can pop up in unexpected everyday foods including meat products, baked goods, chocolate, and cereals. While some often leave this allergy behind in infancy, soy allergies carried into adulthood may be due to interesting factors — if you have a family history of allergies like hay fever, asthma, hives, or eczema, you may be more susceptible to a soy allergy.

Substitute: According to The New York Times, Europeans are bringing lupin seeds, a soybean alternative, into more meals. This gluten-free alternative is rich in amino acids and antioxidants, prebiotic, and low in fat and oil.

5. Wheat

The primary protein the immune system attacks when allergic to wheat is gluten. Wheat allergies are extremely common but are often confused with celiac disease, a condition that essentially prevents the body from absorbing proper nutrients and causes an adverse reaction to gluten. Because wheat is found in breads, pasta, crackers, and even beer, wheat products are tough to avoid. Sometimes severe reactions — like anaphylaxis — are triggered by exercising or taking aspirin after eating a wheat product. These may enhance an allergy by triggering the same biological mechanisms that produce an allergic reaction to wheat. Some who work with wheat flour may experience breathing problems, or "Baker's Asthma," from inhaling wheat allergens but experience no side effects when eating.

Substitute: Gluten-free oats are commonly found in many specialized products in the grocery store. But if you’re looking for even more alternatives, turn to products like rice flour, garbanzo bean flour, or even tapioca flour to make homemade, allergen-free meals.

6. Tree Nuts

According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI), tree nut allergies affect 1.2 percent of the population. These nuts include everything from almonds to cashews and pecans to macadamias, and if you’re allergic to one of them, you’re most likely allergic to a few of them. Tree nuts and tree nut oils, which should be avoided as well, pop up in unexpected places like barbecue sauces, salad dressings, and even pie crusts. Allergies to these nuts can also cause anaphylaxis.

Substitutes: Since there are numerous possibilities for exposure and cross-contamination to tree nuts, it may be best to avoid anything bearing the warning "may contain tree nuts." While many flavorful nuts are off limits, pumpkin, sunflower, and sesame seeds are safe and often substituted in cooking.

7. Shellfish

One common food allergy that’s easy to identify is the immune system's intolerance of shellfish. Unlike many common food allergies, shellfish allergies are far more common in adults than children. Crustaceans are easy to identify and avoid, but mollusks can often be mistaken as safe seafood to eat — squid and scallops among them. Some who suffer from shellfish allergies can eat certain types of mollusks, but others must cut them out completely.

Substitute: Seafood allergens are easy to avoid, but many wish they could eat shellfish to achieve a healthier lifestyle. If you’re concerned about maintaining a low-calorie diet and want the benefits of protein, enjoy lean white meats like chicken and turkey, instead.

8. Fish

Finned fish can just as easily cause allergic reactions as shellfish. While the proteins in fish most often incite the immune system's reactions, fish gelatin (in the bones and skin of fish) can be responsible for allergic side effects as well. Avoiding seafood altogether might sound easy, but fish like anchovies are often hidden in foods like Worcestershire sauce and Caesar salad dressing. Another huge concern for those with fish allergies is the high chance for cross-contamination, especially in restaurants and other public places. But some good news — if you’re allergic to finned fish like flounder, bass, and trout, this doesn’t necessarily mean you are allergic to shellfish.

Substitute: Many people who are allergic to one fish are allergic to another, so doctors generally recommend avoiding it entirely. However, fresh fish is more likely to spur an allergic reaction. After discussing with your doctor, you may be free to enjoy canned tuna and salmon.

9. Raw Fruits and Vegetables

Some seasonal allergy sufferers also experience itching and discomfort upon biting into a succulent peach or gnawing on a raw carrot. Because raw fruits and vegetables contain the same proteins as some pollen, it is easy to develop oral allergy symptoms. While these are hardly as dangerous as some other food allergies, they could in rare occasions cause anaphylaxis.

Substitutes: If the itchy mouth is unbearable, don't give up hope! For some, simply peeling the skin of fruits and veggies reduces allergenic side effects. Also, cooking raw fruits and vegetables changes the shape of the offending proteins which cause allergic reactions, so those who suffer from oral allergy symptoms should experience no further discomfort.

10. Sesame Seeds

Put down the everything bagel — one seed on your favorite breakfast treat could cause a boatload of allergenic symptoms. The number of sesame seed allergies has grown in the U.S, but it’s not yet required for companies to put sesame seed warnings on food labels. Because sesame seeds are used more often in the Middle East, there is more data about the allergy's frequency in the population — reports show that it’s the third most common allergy in Israeli children. As ethnic foods integrate into mainstream U.S. food culture, it’s suspected that the reported sesame seed allergy rate will grow. Common foods that contain sesame seeds include hummus, baked goods, snack foods, and a wide variety of sauces and dressings.

Substitutes: The good news is that allergic reactions to sesame seeds do not necessarily mean allergies to other seeds. The likes of poppy, sunflower, and pumpkin seeds are generally not associated with allergic reactions and serve as fine substitutes.


The 10 Most Common Food Allergies

As with other allergies the incidence of food allergies has been increasing dramatically over the last three decades. Today somewhere in the region of 5% of the population in most western countries have some type of food allergy. Children tend to be more at risk although most grow out of these childhood food allergies.

Food allergies are some of the most potentially dangerous and so it is important to identify and avoid any food that triggers an adverse reaction. Whilst the vast majority of reactions are towards the mild end of the spectrum a significant minority are potentially life-threatening. Peanuts are particularly associated with this risk of anaphylaxis and allergy to them is relatively common.

Food allergy symptoms tend to occur very soon after eating. In mild cases these may be limited to itching, tingling or swelling around the mouth or a runny / blocked nose. Further symptoms might involve a general skin reaction and in more serious cases the digestive tract. Any reactions that lead to breathing difficulties or light-headedness should be treated as a medical emergency.


Milk and Other Dairy Products

Most people believe that peanuts are the most common food allergy on the list, but that isn’t quite true. More children are likely to be allergic to milk and other dairy products. It’s also one of the most commonly diagnosed extremely early since all babies survive on is milk! Most children will develop the allergy within the first year, which can make feeding hard.

There are a couple of things in dairy that set off allergies, but it’s the lactose that is the biggest issue. Some people will find out they’re lactose intolerant, which isn’t quite an allergy. The body just has an issue with breaking down the sugars and elements within lactose, leading to gas, bowel issues, and bloating.

A dairy allergy is much more serious. The immune system fights against the elements within lactose and dairy, viewing the components as bad for the body. This leads to inflammation and white blood cells, which can cause severe shock and damage.

The good news about milk allergies is that 80% of children will outgrow it! The immune system changes and realizes that the milk and dairy aren’t as bad as initially thought. The same can be said for some other childhood allergies.

Eggs are considered important for the diet. While they once got a bad reputation for cholesterol levels, scientists realized that the cholesterol was good and there was plenty of protein. Eggs become a quick staple in the diet since they are easy to eat.

In fact, egg allergies are often one of the first diagnosed. When parents wean their babies from the milk, they will move onto eggs. You can make scrambled ones, which are extremely easy to chew and swallow.

While protein is good for the body, there are some proteins in eggs that cause the allergic reaction. Sometimes the reactions are so mild that they are overlooked, but they can also be extremely severe and life threatening. The protein is usually only found in egg whites, but there’s no guarantee of contamination in the egg yolk. It’s best to avoid all eggs.


List of Common Allergens

Here are 20 of the most common allergenic foods:

  • Cow’s Milkgluten (gliadin) (in wheat, oats, rye and barley)
  • Cashew nuts
  • Garlic
  • Soya beans
  • Brazil nuts
  • Almonds
  • Hazelnuts
  • Lentils
  • Kiwi fruit
  • chilli peppers
  • Sesame seeds
  • Sunflower seeds

If you think you might be suffering from a food allergy, but are not sure which food is causing the problem, start by cutting out all of the above foods.

Other foods commonly associated with allergic reactions (although not necessarily delayed) include:

  • Spinach
  • Shrimp
  • Oranges
  • Chicken
  • Strawberries
  • Tomato
  • Pork
  • Beef

See the related story Self-Testing for Allergies for a suggested approach.


10 Allergenic Foods to Avoid

It's a parent's worst nightmare. You're sitting down to dinner when, all of a sudden, your 9-month-old starts having difficulty breathing and begins swelling up around the mouth. Your child just consumed soy and is experiencing anaphylactic shock, an allergic reaction. What most people can eat freely might be fatal to someone with an allergy to that food.

An allergic reaction occurs when the immune system mistakes a perfectly harmless substance for a dangerous one. In response, the system launches a full-scale attack, all the while wreaking havoc on your body. If you're raising a child or even just like giving dinner parties, you should be familiar with some of the most prominent allergenic foods. Catering to someone's special dietary needs could save his or her life.

Not all allergies are created equal, and oral allergy syndrome (OAS) is one of the lesser-known kinds of conditions. It causes your body to interpret certain fruits or vegetables as pollen.

Celery is one of the common culprits that sets off OAS (especially in areas of central Europe). It can make your skin irritated and itchy and causes hives or swelling around your mouth. Other reactions include nausea, asthma and even anaphylactic shock [source: Lawley].

You can cook some fruits and vegetables to avoid these kinds of reactions. But celery can trigger OAS no matter how you serve it. This means that when celery is used in spices and hidden in processed food, such as soups and casseroles, it can still affect someone who's allergic to it.

If you live in the United States, you may not have heard of anyone being allergic to the little seeds that speckle your cheeseburger bun. But sesame allergies are very common in places where sesame is more prevalent, especially Japan and China.

A sesame allergy can trigger anaphylactic shock and often causes someone to pass out. In some cases, it can be fatal. Unfortunately, adults who suffer from a sesame allergy aren't known to ever overcome it. So, if you develop the allergy, you should avoid sesame for the rest of your life [source: Emerton].

In the past few decades, sesame has become more prevalent in the United States -- and so has the allergy to it. Experts predict the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will eventually add sesame to its list of the big eight allergenic foods that require labeling.

Next, we'll explore that notorious big eight list. These eight allergies account for nearly 90 percent of food-related allergic reactions in the United States.

Cow's milk is one the most prevalent allergenic foods around the world, especially for young children. It's estimated that about 2 to 5 percent of children have allergic reactions to cow's milk before they are 1 year old [source: AAFA]. Some doctors tell parents to avoid giving cow's milk to babies until they hit that 1-year-old milestone [source: Sears]. Luckily, most children seem to overcome their allergy in just a few years, after which they can drink milk and have no reaction to it. Occasionally, however, a person won't recover from a milk allergy.

Allergic reactions to cow's milk include hives, asthma and anaphylactic shock. Another common reaction is a condition known as atopic dermatitis, a skin condition that itches and can create a rash.

But don't confuse lactose intolerance with a milk allergy. Intolerance for milk results in indigestion, gas and bloating and doesn't affect the immune system like an allergy does.

Contrary to the marketing slogan, for many people, the egg is incredibly inedible. Someone could be allergic to either the white or the yolk (or both) -- each contains certain proteins that are known to trigger allergic reactions. These reactions include atopic dermatitis, hives and anaphylactic shock. Another common symptom is allergic rhinitis, a condition often associated with pollen allergies, which involves a runny nose, coughing and headache.

An allergy to eggs is arguably one of the most frustrating to live with merely because so many food products contain them. People with egg allergies must avoid mayonnaise and most baked goods. They should also carefully check the labels of pastas, processed meats, certain drinks (such as root beer and white wines) and candy. If you see any of these ingredients on a label, steer clear: ovalbumin, ovoglobulin, ovomucoid, ovomucin, ovotransferrin, ovovitelia, ovovitelin, globulin, silici albunate, albumin, lecithin, livetin, simplesee, vitellin and lysosyme [source: AAFA].

Peanuts are notorious for causing allergic reactions in people: They're among the most common allergies, and ingestion is likelier to lead to death [source: AAFA]. The allergy is especially common in young children, which is why experts warn against allowing kids to eat peanuts. Although many children overcome their peanut allergy in just a few years, most don't, and they must struggle with it throughout their lives.

If you're allergic and accidentally ingest one, you could develop atopic dermatitis, hives, asthma or life-threatening anaphylactic shock. If you're lucky, you might only experience minor irritation. However, that doesn't mean you're out of the woods. The next time you eat something with peanuts, it could cause a much more serious reaction.

Interestingly, a peanut isn't a nut -- it's a legume. Next, we'll talk about nut allergies.

People with tree nut allergies tend to suffer from them for their entire life. About 91 percent of children allergic to tree nuts never overcome their allergy [source: FAI]. Besides digestive problems, allergic reactions include asthma, hives, atopic dermatitis and anaphylactic shock.

Among the wide variety of tree nuts, the most common offenders include cashews, walnuts and almonds. Uncommon tree nuts, like kola and shea nuts, are less likely to lead to allergic reactions [source: Brostoff]. However, because people are rarely allergic to just one kind of tree nut, some experts advise steering clear of all nuts if you've got a known allergy to any type of tree nut [source: FAI].

What's more, you may experience an allergic reaction to tree nuts even if you don't ingest them. Merely touching or using a topical product that contains them can be dangerous. Scan the ingredients lists in lotions and shampoos, many of which include tree nuts in their formulas.

Although most fish are known to be allergenic, cod and salmon tend to cause more allergic reactions than other varieties. Rounding out the list of allergenic fish are anchovies, tuna, mackerel and sardines.

If you discover that you're allergic to one type of fish, there's a good chance you're allergic to another type, too [source: FAI]. In any case, try to avoid seafood restaurants in general. Though you might order something off the landlubbers side of the menu, cross-contamination in the cooking process can still trigger an allergic reaction. Furthermore, beware of Worcestershire sauce and Caesar salad dressing, both of which usually contain anchovies.


Tree Nuts

Tree nut allergies are among the most common food allergies. Medical researchers estimate about one percent of the population is affected by a tree nut allergy. Most medical caregivers advise patients with an allergy to one or two types of these nuts to avoid them all, is it is possible to become allergic to more over time. Common tree nuts that trigger allergies include pine nuts, Brazil nuts, pistachios, walnuts, and almonds.

photoshkolnik / Getty Images

A lot of children are allergic to eggs, though more than half will outgrow this allergy by 16. Depending on the individual, it could be the eye yolk or the egg white -- or rather the protein in each -- that triggers the allergy. Egg allergy symptoms include stomach ache, hives, breathing difficulties, or anaphylaxis.

People with allergies to corn can even be triggered by corn pollen. Symptoms include stuffy nose, sneezing, headache, and hives. Anaphylaxis is less common, but it can occur. The difficulty for many people with corn allergies is that so many foods in the grocery store contain it.

gaus-nataliya / Getty Images


Tree Nut Allergy

Tree nuts include a broad range of nuts, such as walnuts, pecans, pistachios, hazelnuts, and almonds. If you’re allergic to one tree nut, you’re more likely to be allergic to more than one. The risk of an anaphylactic reaction to tree nuts is higher than that of milk, egg, or wheat.

How Common Is It?

In terms of the overall population, about 0.8% of children and 0.6% of adults have a tree nut allergy. For people with peanut allergies, about 25% to 40% also have a tree nut allergy.  

Tree nut allergies can present for the first time in both children and adults. It’s usually a lifelong allergy, but about 9% of children with a tree nut allergy will outgrow it.

What to Avoid

Your doctor may recommend that you avoid all tree nuts and peanuts because of the risk of cross-contamination. Food labels must list the type of tree nut in the ingredient list. There are many names for different types of tree nuts, so talk with your doctor about the ones you should avoid.

Tree nuts can be found in foods like cereals, crackers, cookies, candy, and chocolates. Some unexpected places include pesto, barbecue sauces, and some cold cuts. You may also find tree nut oils in some soaps, lotions, and shampoos.


The 10 Most Common Food Allergies - Recipes

A food allergy occurs when the body&rsquos immune system sees a certain food as harmful and reacts by causing allergic symptoms. Foods that cause allergic reactions are allergens. There are different types of allergic reactions to foods:

  • Immunoglobulin E (IgE) mediated. The body&rsquos immune system makes antibodies called immunoglobulin E (IgE). These IgE antibodies react with a certain food and cause symptoms. In the U.S., the most common causes of food allergy are these eight foods:
    • Milk
    • Egg
    • Peanut
    • Tree Nut
    • Soy
    • Wheat
    • Fish
    • Shellfish (crustaceans)

    Not all people who react to a certain food have an allergy. They may have a food intolerance. Examples are lactose intolerance, gluten intolerance or sulfite sensitivity. Food intolerance does not involve the immune system.

    • Learn more about food allergies
    • Find allergy-friendly recipes
    • Connect with parents managing their children&rsquos food allergies
    • Get information about managing food allergies in schools

    Types of Allergies

    Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America
    1235 South Clark Street Suite 305, Arlington, VA 22202
    Phone: 1-800-7-ASTHMA (1-800-727-8462) Phone: 1-800-7-ASTHMA (1-800-727-8462)

    Copyright © 1995-2021. Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.
    All rights reserved.


    4. Mixed spice

    What would a kitchen be without the wonderful aroma of some mixed spice? Most people prefer to grind spices themselves and make the mixed spice according to their tastes. Cinnamon, coriander, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves are some of the basic spice ingredients used to make a mixed use useable in almost all the dishes. Just a pinch is enough to add the extra tang and flavor to desserts, salads or main meals. Storage of homemade mixed spice is no issue adding all the more to the charm of this ingredient.


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    I started this site in February 2012 almost a year after discovering my nephew had Food Allergies. 

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