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Allergy Diet

It is essential to have a diet that does not irritate allergies.

Examining food labels helps avoid food allergies. [© Shutterstock, 2010]
© Shutterstock, 2010
Examining food labels helps avoid food allergies.

For patients suffering from food allergies, an allergy diet is the most effective way to ward off allergy symptoms. A diet that takes allergies into account can also help prevent a severe reaction, like anaphylaxis. It is widely accepted that there is no cure for food allergies, so a diet change is the only way to deal with the situation. Fortunately, there are ways for patients to stay healthy when changing to a specialized allergy diet.

Avoid Foods that Trigger an Allergic Response

Although almost any food can trigger an allergic response, there are eight foods that have been identified as particularly prone to prompting a response:

  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Crustacean shellfish, like crab, lobster and shrimp
  • Tree nuts, such as pecans, walnuts and almonds
  • Peanuts
  • Wheat
  • Soybeans

Any patient with a food allergy or sensitivity should avoid these foods and their by-products. It can be difficult to know when a food item contains a by-product, though, so being knowledgeable about common by-products, such as casein in milk, is helpful.

To assist patients, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has taken measures that require food manufacturers to label packaging to help those with food allergies clearly identify foods that contain potential allergens. Patients with food allergies should read the labels on all products they intend to buy to ensure that none of the ingredients include substances they are allergic to.

The parents of children with food allergies should teach them how to read labels and start the avoidance process early in life. The new labeling standards will help inform children and adults about potentially harmful products in foods.

For those on an allergy diet, eating out can be difficult. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that when at a restaurant, patients ask their servers about how the food is prepared and what ingredients certain dishes contain. It also points out that avoiding fried foods from restaurants is helpful since in many cases, multiple types of food are fried in the same oil, leading to cross-contamination.

Take Vitamins and Supplements

Adding vitamins and supplements to an allergy diet can help bolster the immune system. When a patient comes into contact with an allergen, the immune system overreacts, so strengthening the system may help decrease its sensitivity. Medical experts generally consider Vitamin C as an immune system booster, so patients may want to take a chewable tablet or multivitamin with vitamin C to keep their bodies functioning optimally.

Taking a daily multivitamin can help keep the body's nutrients balanced. The patient's body will use what it needs and excrete any excess out through the patient's urine. Exceptions to this are the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. These are stored in the liver and fat tissue and overdose can occur, although it is very rare.

Growing children who are allergic to cow's milk may need to increase their intake of vitamin D and calcium. These substances are vital to bone development and growth.

It is recommended that any patient who eats a limited diet should supplement it with additional vitamins and minerals, but for most, large doses are not needed.

Since some nutrients are best absorbed by the body when combined with others (i.e., vitamin D and calcium), the consensus is that nutrients obtained from foods are preferable to the synthetic versions available in pill form. This is where a balanced diet comes into play, so it is worthwhile for patients to replace any foods that cause allergic reactions with foods that can provide similar nutritional value.

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine has found evidence that probiotics (good bacteria) can help develop the immune system and fend off unwanted microorganisms. This approach can work for those who are prone to any kind of allergy, not just food allergies.

Since nutritional supplements are not regulated, patients are advised to speak with their doctors before adding them to their diets.

A good allergy diet will vary between patients. Overall, avoiding food triggers, adding hypoallergenic foods and supplementing vitamins and minerals will help keep patients healthy and symptom-free.

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