Food Allergies

These days, it is quite common for child care centres to be ‘nut-free’ zones. Any parent or carer with children in schools will no doubt have been asked to avoid nuts and eggs when providing a plate for parties like school break-ups. Why all the fuss? It’s all about allergies.
The consumption of allergen foods can have life threatening consequences.  Allergic reactions are acute (immediate) and occur when an overactive immune system produces antibodies to substances in the diet (or environment). Reactions vary in severity from nausea to tissue swelling, breathing difficulty and / or collapse; the only protection from these reactions is complete avoidance of the offending food. Peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, cows milk protein and seafood are some of the more common food allergens and are most common in infants and children. Most children grow out of egg and milk allergies; however nut and seafood allergies are more likely to persist into adulthood.
Food intolerances are distinct from allergies. Where allergies are caused by proteins in the offending food upsetting the immune system, intolerances are due to naturally occurring food chemicals such as salicylates or synthetic chemicals like food additives. Intolerances have different trigger points; some people can consume little and others can tolerate a lot more before a reaction such as hives or hyperactivity occurs. Because of the wide variety of food chemicals, intolerances can be tricky to identify. An elimination diet followed by gradual challenges with typically high chemical foods is the usual approach.
There is much confusion in the community about allergies due to inconsistent messages from health professionals. Should an expectant Mum avoid allergen foods during pregnancy, or will avoidance increase the likelihood her unborn child will develop an allergy later in life? Do we introduce these foods to our babies around six months of age or do we avoid them until the child reaches five years. The reason for all the confusion is we are unclear of the answers. Much research is being carried out all over the world to determine the reason for increased prevalence of allergies in today’s population. In the very near future, health experts hope to have a greater understanding of what is going on and therefore be able to provide some consistent advice. In the meantime, spare a thought for the little people suffering from food allergies when sending a plate to that school party! If you would like help with an elimination diet, contact us at or find (and like!) us on facebook here.
Andrea Cruickshank APD AN

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