• By Deanna Segrave-Daly
  • In 2018
  • May 16, 2018

Food Allergy Awareness and Nutrition Connections

by Kelly Jones, MS, RD, CSSD, LDN

May is not only when the weather really perks up and we gather to celebrate Moms, grads and just the arrival of warm weather! It’s also Food Allergy Awareness Month as well as Celiac Awareness Month. Both are on the rise, which means it’s important for parents, teachers and caregivers to be more aware of symptoms of an allergic reaction. It also means everyone, with a food allergy or not, should be considerate of high allergy prevalence as these reactions can be life-threatening. Additionally, when a child has multiple allergies, it also means special attention should be paid to filling nutrient gaps.

An allergy is different than a food intolerance in that it is a hypersensitivity of the immune system. Intolerances are more of a discomfort caused by an inability to process a food or a food component. While the latter isn’t pleasant and may impact gut health if someone has frequent exposure to the problematic food, it’s not as serious as an allergy.

Hypersensitivity reactions can include anything from a stuffy nose and sneezing (yes, that can happen from food!), to a rash or skin changes, to full-blown anaphylactic shock. While essentially any food can cause a reaction, eight major allergens have been identified:

Peanuts

Tree nuts (cashews, almonds, walnuts, pecans, Brazil nuts, pistachios, pine nuts and sometimes even coconut)
Fish
Shellfish
Dairy
Soy
Eggs
Wheat

Many people might not realize their allergy if they consume a food on a daily basis, such as dairy, wheat or eggs, and have reactions that seem like seasonal allergies. They may not seem like a big deal, but since the immune system is reacting to ingestion of the food regularly, it does put stress on the body and promote unnecessary inflammation.

If you suspect you have a food allergy, rather than self-diagnose, speak with your physician to obtain a referral for an allergist to test IgE antibodies (IgG have not been proven reliable, as discussed by PA dietitian Zach Breeding). Allergies do not only show up in toddlers and children but can form in adulthood too.

Nutrient gaps are common, especially when there are multiple allergies. This can be common in toddlers and young children so while they may outgrow some of the allergies. “Caregivers need to make sure that nutrients that are missing in the diet because of multiple food allergies are supplemented appropriately,” says Julie Stefanski, Spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics. She adds, “The more allergens a child needs to avoid, the more likely they’re missing out on major minerals needed for growth and development. Parents often try to help by supplementing with a gummy vitamin, but often what’s missing isn’t provided by the dietary supplement that they chose. The best way to make sure that the vitamin and mineral supplement makes up for what’s missing in the diet is to meet with a registered dietitian nutritionist who can assess what’s regularly being eaten.” A dietitian can also help with identifying foods that can be added to make up for those being avoided for nutritional content and for enjoyment.

Does someone in your family have a newly diagnosed food allergy? Would you like to be more considerate of other’s potential allergies when serving food at your home or making treats for your child’s class? Here are some dietitians and resources with recipe blogs and info!

For valid information on Celiac disease follow dietitians Amy Horrock and EA Stewart.

Kristi Winkels blogs about her experiences in her home and with clients at eatingwithfoodallergies.com. She has recipes, tips for dining out, and a resource list.

Dietitian, Chelsey Amer, who is allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, and sesame seeds, has a plethora of nut free recipes and food allergy tips on her blog CitNutritionally.

GoDairyFree.org is a site with plenty of dairy free recipes. The founder also has a recipe book.

Need to work with a dietitian one on one to tackle your food allergies? Search for someone who specializes in food allergies via the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics “Find an Expert” tool.

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Kelly is a Registered Dietitian and Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics practicing primarily in the greater Philadelphia region. As a speaker and consultant, her expertise lies in performance nutrition, weight management and corporate wellness. Kelly empowers others to use real food and a flexible mentality to optimally fuel the body and mind.  You can find Kelly at @KellyJonesNutrition on Facebook, and @eatreallivewell on Instagram and Twitter.  Her website for Kelly Jones Performance Nutrition is kellyjonesnutrition.com