Most people when asked believe they have allergies to some foods. Some believe they have multiple food allergies. They will describe their reactions in a wide spectrum of symptoms. These include abdominal and gastrointestinal symptoms, rash or hives, headache or flushing. Most of the time when people believe they are allergic to a great number of foods, it turns out that their symptoms or rashes are unrelated to true food allergies. If someone is having frequent random “reactions’”, they might assume it was the last thing they ate. It is a logical line of thinking, especially if the reactions appear allergic in nature. However, patients that present with chronic hives, many believe are caused by foods, the true cause is not discovered 85-95% of the time, even after extensive food allergy testing.
There is no medically proven way to treat true food allergies, except avoidance. When true food allergies are discovered, usually the person has just a few and avoidance is possible. Many people have food intolerance to one or more foods. These cause less serious non-allergic reactions to things such as foods, food additives or other ingredients. Sometimes “food allergy” turns out to be gastrointestinal conditions such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome or esophageal reflux disease.
The truth is medical science doesn’t have a complete understanding of food allergy in general. We understand IgE mediated allergy very well (i.e. Immediate hives or wheezing after peanut ingestion), and understand that eczema may be worsened by foods. There are also well-described allergic syndromes such as milk-induced colitis in children. However, there are probably other-induced allergic syndromes that have not been scientifically worked out.
If you suspect you have food allergies, it is very important to be tested for true IgE mediated food allergy reactions – it is the only way to know for sure. True IgE mediated food allergies can be dangerous and proper diagnosis is needed to determine what foods to strictly avoid. Unfortunately there are no allergy shots to desensitize to food allergies, they must simply be avoided. If you do not have true food allergies our allergists can give very good advice regarding elimination diets and possible referral to a GI specialist. Call our office to schedule an appointment.