Causes of food allergy
The body’s responds to a certain food trough the immune system is a case of food allergy. The symptoms are mainly expressed in the digestive system, skin and respiratory system. Although symptoms can be similar to those of food intolerance, in case of allergy they are much more severe, and can even lead to anaphylaxis. Another difference is the short time between food consumption and symptom expression in case of food allergy (Dean, 2000). The symptoms are vomiting, stomach cramps, hives, shortness of breath, repetitive caugh, tight throat, trouble swallowing, swelling on the tongue, affecting ability to breath, weak pulse, pale or blue skin, dizziness and least wanted anaphylactic shock (ACCAI, 2015).
Each governmental food safety body signifies most common food allergens that need to be labeled on the products, and generally they overlap. According to FDA (2004) they are milk, eggs, fish, crustaceous shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat and soybean, and FSAI (2011) places gluten containing cereals instead of wheat, and adds celery, mustard, sesame, sulphur dioxide and sulphites (higher than 10 mg/kg), lupin and molloscus.
It has been estimated that 4% of adults and 8% of children in US suffer from food allergy, and that percent especially among children is increasing, making currently 15 million of people with food allergy. Although this is not a specific condition for certain age, gender, race or other group, is more commonly found in boys, than girls and more common in children. As shown in statistical numbers one of the reasons that the number is lower in adults is because some of the allergies are overcomed at the age of 5, as allergies to milk, egg, wheat and soy. Other allergies as the one to peanuts, tree nuts, fish or crustacean shellfish are lifelong problems (FARE, 2015).
It has been found that high hygiene, especially in early age makes children more susceptible to food allergies in later life. The “hygiene hypothesis” explains that changes of lifestyle in industrialized countries have led to a decrease of the infectious diseases but instead there is a rise in allergic and autoimmune diseases. In countries where good health standards do not exist, there is small prevalence of allergy but infectious diseases are constantly high. And instantly in once such countries lower the infectious incidence, allergy or autoimmune diseases rise (Okada, 2010).
Diet might affect sensitization to a certain level, for instance there has been found a link between lower sensitization in people consuming higher amount of vitamin E, whole milk and fresh fruits. On the other hand higher consumption of mono-unsaturated fatty acid may lead to higher prevalence of sensitization. Introducing potential allergic food to young children had been a subject to controversy. It was believed and taught that prolonged breastfeeding and introduction to highly allergenic food after the third year of the child may protect them from developing food allergy. One argument toward this approach is the fact that there has been occurrence of higher sensitization to food in people who are on treatment of lowering the stomach pH, and children have lower pH as well. Higher acidity is more potential to denaturate allergens during food digestion. But some practices in certain cultures where early introduction to allergenic foods leads to lower allergy prevalence (Madsen et al., 2014), and some new research suggest that those food may be better to be introduced in the first year of the child in order tolerate them (ACCAI, 2015).
But one factor that is definitely correlated with food allergy is gene predisposition, and not specifically to a same food but more general susceptibility to food allergy. Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health-led research team (2015) found that there is one specific gene that is found in children with peanut allergy. But because there was not an allergy occurrence in all children with such gene, this only means that genes may only increase the risk of allergy.
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