How Do Food Allergies Develop

There are a couple of theories for how food allergies develop. One involves exposure to partially digestive proteins in early life. Although the digestive tract is rapidly developing during the first few months of infancy, there remains the potential for complete or semicomplete food proteins to cross the wall of the digestive tract and enter the body. When this occurs, an infant's immune system recognizes this substance as foreign and destroys it. At the same time an infant develops "immune memory" of that substance for future reference. This immune memory includes a routine production of antibodies that specifically recognize that substance. These antibodies allow the body to develop a very rapid and potent immune response when exposed to that substance again in the future. This response causes the release of chemicals in the body (for example, histamine and serotonin), which may cause any number of the following actions: itchiness, swelling, vomiting, asthma, diarrhea, headache, skin reactions, or a runny nose.

Even in the mature digestive tract of children and adults there still remains a chance that fragments of intact substances are absorbed. When this occurs, an allergic reaction ensues. Many factors in the diet may elicit the characteristics of a food allergy or intolerance. Some of the more common foods containing these substances include those food items listed in Table 12.2. Sometimes a food allergy is difficult to identify. Physicians who specialize in this area (allergists) may have the allergic

Table 12.2 Food Items Suspect in Many Food Allergies

Fish and other seafood

Oranges and citrus fruits Eggs

Garlic Chocolate Various colorants and flavorants

Oats and oatmeal

Legumes

Tomatoes

Wheat

Cucumbers

Nuts (especially peanuts)

Mustard

Milk

Corn patient eat a very plain diet and then introduce foods that are suspect one at a time until the culprit food is identified.

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