Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Adult Onset of Food Allergies: Some current theories

Further to my post of earlier this month regarding Adult Onset of Food Allergies, I wanted to pass on some information I recently discovered -- definitely worth looking into if you're wondering, as I am, what may be causing adults to suddenly develop food allergies.

In the Spring 2011 issue of Allergic Living Magazine, on pages 15 & 16 within the section titled "The Food Allergy Experts", Dr. Scott Sicherer (Chief of the Division of Allergy and Immunology at the Jaffe Food Allergy Institute, Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York) tells a reader some of the current theories about why adults are experiencing food allergies they didn't when they were children:

1) Allergy to proteins in the air which are similar to proteins in certain foods may contribute to developing food allergy -- for example, proteins in birch pollen are similar to the proteins of foods in the same family as apples and pears (Pomoideae, a sub-family of the Rose Family).

2) Environmental exposure to a food or food protein, even if not ingested, may increase risk of allergy to that food/protein (peanuts are the example given).

3) Changes in digestion, such as taking antacids, may lead to increased risk of food allergy (the theory is that lack of stomach acid reduces digestion and allows proteins to pass intact to the immune system).

4) An imbalance in the immune system caused, for example, by a severe viral illness, may lead the body to attack proteins it formerly considered benign.

This list is by no means exhaustive nor definitive, and Dr. Sicherer emphasizes the importance of talking with a board-certified allergist about your specific case.  The bottom line is that no one has yet sufficiently pinned down the cause(s) of food allergies in adults or children, but every day our knowledge is increasing -- a heartening thought for the times when our hope of relief seems to dwindle.


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patricia anderson said...

I believe in #2 ! When diagnosed with multiple food allergies, LAMB was the only meat I'm allergic to--it happens to be the main ingredient in our dogs' food! I've never eaten it, just breathed it in twice a day when feeding the dogs. (We've switched feed now.) :o)

Bethany Niazian said...

Patricia, that is a fantastic example of how environmental factors can affect those of us who have food allergies, even if we're not ingesting whatever it is in the environment that is causing it. Have you noticed any improvement in your health since you switched the dog food to something other than lamb?

It is true that breathing in even a tiny part of something you're allergic to can affect you. My mother has had serious allergic reactions just from unintentionally inhaling the steam from a nearby table in a restaurant where the diners were eating something that had cooked red peppers in it (she is anaphylactic to red peppers, would go into anaphylactic shock if she ate one).

One positive aspect about your lamb allergy, though, is that it is not a member of a particularly large food family, so you can most likely avoid lamb more easily than, say, members of the legume family which are so widespread in our society (soy, peanuts, beans, lentils, just think how many foods have those ingredients in them!).