The New Rise of Food Allergies


By: , – Stacey Colino, Family Circle
  :  11 comments   :  15,666 Views

When Judi Zucker's son, Tanner, turned 14, he started getting daily headaches, rashes and acne breakouts. At first she chalked it up to puberty. But then the Santa Barbara–based writer was asked to pen a cookbook for people with food allergies and it occurred to her to have Tanner tested. Sure enough, blood work revealed that he was "off-the-charts" allergic to casein (a milk protein) and gluten. And he's not alone. These days, it seems like we're in the midst of an epidemic of food allergies. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, their prevalence among kids under 18 rose 50% between 1997 and 2011. While some food allergies (which usually emerge in childhood) can be outgrown, others are lifelong and require permanent dietary shifts. "Within 24 hours of going gluten- and casein-free, Tanner had no more headaches, and gradually his skin cleared up," says Zucker, 52, who went on to co-author The Ultimate Allergy-Free Snack Cookbook
Because he'd had a few symptoms when younger, Zucker notes, "I wish I'd had him tested earlier." Protect your loved ones by getting the facts and recognizing the signs.
Celiac Disease vs. Gluten Sensitivity
Celiac Disease

What it is: While you can be allergic to gluten, celiac disease is not a food allergy. "It's a hereditary autoimmune disease that damages the small intestine and interferes with the absorption of nutrients from food," notes Scott Sicherer, M.D., a professor of pediatrics and a researcher at the Jaffe Food Allergy Institute at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City. Left untreated, it can increase the risk of lymphoma and other types of cancer.

Symptoms: Abdominal cramping and bloating; anemia; constipation; diarrhea; fatigue; joint pain; mouth ulcers; weight loss.

How it's identified: Blood tests for gluten autoantibodies, followed by an endoscopy with a biopsy to look for damage to the small intestine.
Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity

What it is: A condition in which you cannot tolerate gluten and have symptoms similar to those of celiac disease, but don't have the autoantibodies or damage to the small intestine that characterize the disease.

Symptoms: Bloating; diarrhea; fatigue; headache; brain fog; joint pain; numbness in the legs, arms or fingers.

How it's identified: A blood test comes up negative for celiac disease, but following a gluten-free diet leads to improved health.
Food Allergy vs. Food Intolerance
Food Allergy

What it is: The immune system produces large amounts of antibodies called immunoglobulin E (IgE) in response to a protein in a particular food, triggering allergy cells to produce chemicals (such as histamine) that cause allergic symptoms.

Symptoms: Hives, itching and/or eczema; nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea; respiratory and cardiovascular symptoms.

Severity: It can be life-threatening even when a small amount of the offending food is eaten.

Food Intolerance

What it is: A reaction in the digestive (not the immune) system when your body is unable to properly break down certain sugars in a particular food (such as lactose in milk) due to enzyme deficiencies or sensitivity to a naturally occurring chemical in that food.

Symptoms: Bloating; gas; diarrhea; other forms of gastrointestinal discomfort.

Severity: "A food intolerance is unpleasant but not life-threatening," says Dr. Sicherer, author of Food Allergies: A Complete Guide for Eating When Your Life Depends on It. "It affects adults more than kids."
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    I was born with a deadly allergy to dairy and dairy bi-products. I'm 30yrs old now and it is about the worst thing ever to live with. I'm afraid for my life to eat outside of the house anywhere because dairy is in everything (including things like shampoos and soaps even) and even if it's not in the food itself but the person had it on a surface or had something on their hands that had something I'm allergic to it's still enough to trigger the anaphlactic shock and kill me. School was awful. It's nice to see some schools banning certain products for allergies, but part of me thinks it's completely unfair. A school would never ban dairy products and everybody in the world things it's so healthy for everybody and it's near impossible to find anything safe for me to eat. Everything has to be made completely from scratch because even things claiming to be non dairy still end up being made in places that do dairy which runs the risk of contamination. It's a completely unfair thing to have to live with and has almost literally ruined my entire life :( - 12/1/2013   12:13:24 AM
  • 10
    I was diagnosed with celiac many years ago, and recently I had more testing done and found I am allergic to garlic, leeks, onions, cocoa, strawberries, and have a severe candida allergy. I told my Dr I'd just live on air and sunshine like the flowers, haha. - 9/20/2013   10:57:32 PM
  • 9
    I am really allergic to kiwi. I have learned to stay away because the reaction is scary. My sister is allergic to rice and oranges. I have more environmental allergies. - 9/18/2013   12:12:40 AM
  • SE2832
    I've been intolerant of Bell Peppers (which seem to be everywhere) since I can remember, became intolerant of hops (no beer!) in my twenties, and just this past year I became intolerant of almonds. I think that the doctor's description of 'Unpleasant' is inaccurate for the amount of pain a severe attack generates. - 8/22/2013   5:01:20 PM
  • 7
    I've had all kinds of stomach cramps, bloating, fatigue, nausea and migraine headaches for years. I also had inflammation issues which I chalked up to overuse injuries - bursitis in both hips at the age of 23! After the last bout of severe stomach problems I switched to gluten dairy and soy free, and my issues are going away. The only problem is that now I have to watch what I eat more carefully because the longer I go without the more sensitive I seem to get. - 8/22/2013   1:18:16 AM
  • 6
    I agree 100% with STEFIGURL! - 8/16/2013   8:00:04 PM
    Many children have allergies to nuts-- This seems to be more frequent for the children today... Peanut butter is not permitted in some pre-schools because of the health risk. - 8/14/2013   1:40:15 PM
  • 4
    I used to have food allergies (extreme abdominal cramping and the runs when I ate dairy, corn, peanuts, white potatoes, or onion for over 20 years); but then I was treated with Advanced Allergy Therapeutics and I can eat all of these with no problem. Also the provider discovered that I was allergic to magnesium and to acidophilus and was successfully treated for them as well. Look for it in your area - it's amazing to be able to eat what I want again! Now if they could only figure out how to treat stress :) - 8/13/2013   4:07:01 PM
    Having been a front line health care worker for 28 years, I know this much is true. We are not, as a species SUDDENLY allergic to so many foods we've eaten for decades without harm. Our food supply has been POISONED for the last 20 years by genetic modification. Our livestock have been POISONED with steroids, antibiotics and hormones, not meant for animal or human consumption. Industrialization of our food supply has caused irrevocable havoc on our environment and in our bodies. We have been sold a bill of goods while multinational chemical corporations have raked in the dough selling food they, themselves admit they will not eat or feed to their families. Did you know that the majority of your prepared food is made by CHEMICAL COMPANIES? Dow, Bayer, Cargill, ConAgra are CHEMICAL companies...and they make the vast majority of packaged foods. Wake up folks. Organic and/or locally grown and/or self-grown food is your only alternative if you want to enjoy any semblance of health and longevity. Eat whole food, grown and produced locally! Make your own food whenever you can! Stop supporting the multinational corporations that are killing our planet, destroying our democracy with lobby and PAC money, and trading away as many jobs as they can to other countries. It is possible. I do it...and so can you!! :-) Visit to learn how to start the shift! - 8/13/2013   12:25:37 PM
    I don't have the life-threatening allergy to peanuts and I can tolerate them in small amounts. If I eat peanuts in larger amounts it causes nervousness and extreme facial flushing. Weird. Honeydew melon makes my mouth itch. I've been eating gluten free for six months and feel much better. When I eat very much wheat at all I get "tummy-torture" and if I keep it up for a few days I develop eczema on my right hand. Food allergies/sensitivities can be very weird but figuring out what you should avoid can really improve your life. - 8/13/2013   12:19:52 PM
  • 1
    I've slowly had to acknowledge that I am allergic to salmon. I've tried farmed, fresh, Copper River, Atlantic, and other varieties. I had eaten it, but not frequently until moving from the Midwest to the Pacific NW and didn't have any issues until eating some packaged salmon sushi. That stunt landed me in the ER with extreme sickness, hives, and mild analphylaxis (sp?). I thought perhaps it was some other ingredient, but now after trying more varieties of salmon - in small quantities with Benadryl on hand - I have to accept that I have to say no to this awesome fish. At least there are other fish in the sea! - 8/13/2013   12:01:21 PM

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