Tips on how to shop with Food Allergies
According to the Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy, 10% of infants, up to 8% of children and almost 2% of adults that live in Australia and New Zealand have food allergies.
But what does it mean to be allergic to food?
Some foods, and most commonly egg, cow’s milk, peanut, tree nuts, sesame, soy, fish, shellfish, and wheat contain a range of different substances and compounds that can trigger, in some individuals, immune reactions once in contact with the human body. Most commonly, an allergic reaction to food causes abdominal discomfort, pain, vomiting and diarrhoea. Usually, most food allergies affect the skin, that becomes itchy, with hives. Swelling is another big symptom of food allergies, that occurs on the face, eyelids and lips. When it comes to food allergies and any allergies in general, the first reaction between the foreign body and immune system will be mild, but with the second exposure to an allergen, the allergic reaction will manifest more severely, presented as prophylaxis reactions. This is why it is crucial to identify the allergen in the first place and completely avoid exposure with the allergen in the future.
Some of the most severe allergic reactions have as symptoms swelling that affects the
tongue, throat, which causes heavy and difficulty breathing, persistent cough, which can further lead to dizziness and loss of consciousness. In small children, when they have an allergic reaction they will look floppy and pale, which should be some warning signs for the parents to reach for medical support immediately.
What foods are people allergic to?
The most common food allergens are peanuts, eggs, soy, Lupin, wheat, gluten, dairy
products, seafood, fish, nuts such as hazelnuts, walnuts, peanuts, fruits like kiwi, peaches and apples, celery, and sesame seeds. These foods contain specific constituents that trigger in some people immune reactions.
Here is a list with some of them and the food they are found in:
- Tropomyosins in shellfish
- Parvalbulims found in fish
- Caseins in milk products
- Ovomucoids in eggs
- Prolamins in wheat (gluten), barley, oats, rye, corn.
- 2S albumins in peanuts, sunflower seeds, Brazil nuts, almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts.
How to shop when having food allergies?
First thing first, know what you react to, and which food products could include those as
primary ingredients. Do your homework at home prior to shopping. Search brands in advance and look up products that are allergen-free. This will save you some time in the grocery store. Always have a list with you, where you can write the brands you know are allergen free. Read the labels very carefully for any warnings or hidden ingredients. This might take more time, but it is better to check every ingredient on the list before purchasing your item. Know where you shop and research your stores to see what allergen-free options they have. I also consider buying whole fresh produce because you buy what you see.
Cooking and preparing food for yourself can be challenging sometimes, especially with the busy schedules we have, but by far it is the easiest way to stay away from an unwanted allergic reaction because you are in control of what you buy and what you prepare. When buying packed foods, look for those biscuits, muesli, bread, or any other food that have a simple and small number of ingredients. Most of the time long ingredient lists may contain one or more food allergen.
Always ask when unsure, especially when you buy baked goods at a bakery. Most of the
time the ingredients will not be listed so it’s important to confirm with the person that
bakes and has access to an ingredient list. When people are not 100% sure about the allergen content in their products, it is better to avoid buying it rather than exposing yourself to an allergic reaction. Many of us might have noticed that the packaging of foods presents the warning ‘may contain’. That can be very frustrating because we are not sure whether they have processed the food in the same environment with the allergen or not. In this situation calling and asking the company directly would be a great idea to solve the incertitude.
Ask for help. In many health food stores, you always see a naturopath or nutritionist that can give you guidance when you need to shop with a food allergy. They are there to help you and guide you to the products that are allergen-free instead of spending a long time figuring out what food you can purchase. In Australia, most foods will mention the allergens present on their packaging. When travelling overseas this might be a lot more challenging. A great tip is to learn how to translate the word ‘allergen’ in the country you’re visiting. That will come very handy when you shop or order food.
Now, did you know that some deli meat is covered with egg to give their glaze? The same
thing happens with bread and baked foods. Or that Tamari sauce can contain gluten because wheat is added to the fermentation of soy? Soy lecithin can be easily added chocolate, sweets and cakes because it helps with the emulsification of fats. Many of the food allergens that can be present in foods are things we don’t always think of, thus following these steps and doing your own research will help you a lot in preventing allergic reactions. It is very important to always seek medical advice and be monitored regularly by your general practitioner when having a food allergy.
Speak to our qualified instore naturopaths and nutritionists should you have any questions about allergen-free products and reading labels.
For some allergy-free cooking inspiration visit our recipes here
By Gabriela Ciobotaru ~ Flannerys Nutritionist
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