Reading Food Labels For Allergies
Food allergy or food intolerance affects nearly everyone at some point. When someone has an unpleasant reaction to something they ate, they often think that they have an allergy to the food. Food allergy is an abnormal response to food that is triggered by a specific reaction in the immune system and expressed by certain symptoms. Food intolerance is also an abnormal response to food. Its symptoms can resemble those of food allergies however food intolerance is fare more prevalent and is triggered by several different mechanisms that are distinct from the immunological reaction responsible for food allergy. Anyone with a food allergy must attempt to identify and prevent them because these reactions may cause devastating illness and potentially be fatal.
Diagnosing a food allergy can be a challenge for most doctors. First the doctor must determine if the patient is having an adverse reaction to specific foods. The doctor makes this assessment with the help of a detailed history from the patient, the patient's dietary diary, or an elimination diet. The doctor then confirms the diagnosis by the more objective skin tests, blood tests, or food challenges. The dietary history is the most important diagnostic tool. The physician interviews the patient to determine if the facts are consistent with a food allergy. If the patient's history, dietary diary, or elimination diet suggests that a specific food allergy is likely, the doctor will then use tests, such as skin tests, blood tests, and a food challenge, which can more objectively confirm an allergic response to food.
There is no known cure for food allergies. Avoidance of the food that causes the allergy is the only way a person will be able to prevent a reaction. The improved food label will help make it easier for food allergic people and their caregivers to identify and avoid foods that contain major food allergens. Food allergies are on the rise in children and the new and improved food labeling information is especially helpful to children who must learn to recognize the presence of substances they need to avoid. Children need to learn to read the food labels to determine whether or not the product contains an allergy causing food.
Manufacturers must identify the presence of a major food allergen in one of two ways. These ways include listing the ingredients in which manufacturers must state the source of an allergenic ingredient in parentheses after the name of the ingredient. Manufacturers must also add the word ‘contains' followed by the name of the source of each allergenic ingredient in the food. Once a patient and their doctor have identified the food to which the patient is sensitive, the food must be removed completely from their diet. The patient must read lengthy and detailed ingredient lists on each food they are considering eating. Many allergy producing foods such as peanuts, eggs, and milk, appear in foods in which one would not normally associate them with. People can avoid most of the things to which they are sensitive if they read food labels carefully and avoid restaurant prepared foods that might contain ingredients that they are allergic to.
Cooking Tips When Food Allergies Factor In Your Life
Ask anyone who has a food allergy – planning meals can be a tricky proposition. Unfortunately, if you or someone in your home has a food allergy, chances are they cannot really eat out due to fear of exposure to the wrong foods so that makes preparing meals at home the best alternative. Cooking at home gives you the most control over what you put into your body and at least you know how the food is prepared and what ingredients are used.
Food allergies can make home cooking quite a challenge, even for the most accomplished of cooks. Luckily, with the increased attention to allergies caused by what you eat, there is a plethora of information and recipes on the internet and in books that can help you in the meal planning process. Of course, learning how to substitute ingredients is important as well.
Approximately 90% of all food allergies are caused by peanuts, dairy, shellfish, tree nuts, dairy, soy and wheat. The good news is there are plenty of resources in which to find recipes that are food allergy friendly, especially if you are dealing with just a single food allergy. However, it starts getting tricky when there are multiple allergies to deal with.
Manipulating Recipes to Accommodate Allergies
While you may find a plethora of recipes that accommodate allergies, you may wish to adjust regular recipes by employing substitutions. This is a great talent to have in the kitchen especially if you find some great recipes that call for ingredients you just cannot eat. Luckily there are plenty of substitutions that are easy to find at the grocery store whereas other times may require a trip to a whole foods or organic market.
Experimenting is crucial to food allergy sufferers especially when it comes to dealing with substitute ingredients. This is where reading food labels come in handy! You can replace flours made from wheat and even find alternatives to dairy products and peanut butter. Half the battle is looking for these food items and the other half the battle is patience during your food experiments.
Obtaining and Cooking with Allergy-Free Ingredients
While your local supermarket may carry a limited selection of allergy-free products, other stores do not. Therefore, you may have to cruise the internet a bit to find websites devoted to food products that address allergies, especially if you live in the country or some other area where special types of food ingredients are available.
While you may be on a special diet because of food allergens, it does not mean the rest of the family cannot have "normal" food. You just have to be diligent about food preparation in regards to cross contamination. Even using the wrong spoon to stir something on the stove can be harmful. Washing hands, counters and sink areas are important in keeping possible food allergens away from your meal. Overall, what do you do when it comes to choosing a meal in a restaurant or preparing a meal at home? Worry! However with a little forethought and planning, you can whip up an food allergy free meal.