Eating Disorders and Food Allergies, Part 1
It’s very difficult to have food allergies on top of eating problems. Not only must you be mindful of your appetite and the rules of “normal” eating, but you have to deal with the physiological and psychological consequences of eating certain offending foods. Typical food allergies include wheat (gluten), soy, dairy (milk), eggs, peanuts, and shellfish.
Studies maintain that some 15% of people in the US believe that they are allergic to certain foods, but that only approximately 1% of adults and 5% of children have true food allergies characterized by an adverse reaction that’s triggered by the immune system. In a true food allergy, your immune system mistakenly identifies a specific food or a component of a food as a harmful substance. This causes certain cells to make antibodies to fight the culprit food or food component (the allergen). The next time you eat even the smallest amount of that food, the antibodies sense it and signal your immune system to release histamine and other chemicals into your bloodstream. Symptoms of a food allergy usually develop within an hour after eating the offending food and may include hives, itching, eczema; swelling of the lips, face, tongue and throat, or other body parts; wheezing, nasal congestion, or trouble breathing; abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea, or vomiting; dizziness, lightheadedness, or fainting.
Other reactions to food don’t involve the immune system (and consequent release of histamine) and are not allergies but food intolerances. Because they may cause many of the same symptoms as allergies—nausea, vomiting, cramping and diarrhea—people often confuse the two. Food intolerances may make you uncomfortable, but they are not valid allergic reactions. (The information in the two paragraphs above is taken from http://www.mayoclinic.com/.)
Yet another response to food may generate suspicion about having a food allergy—when you believe that you cannot stop eating a certain food and/or that it will lead to a binge (after which you may feel sick). Offending foods are often high sugar and/or high fat. Most people who eat sugar and crave more of it do not have an allergy to sugar. Eating it may trigger a craving for more, but that does not make it a bona fide allergy.
If you suspect you have a food allergy, please practice good health care and consult a doctor or health practitioner so that you can undergo allergy testing, which is the only way you will know for sure if. You can then discuss how to adjust your eating according to the test results, that is, whether you have an allergy to, intolerance of, or simply excessive cravings for a particular food.