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How do I know if I need to eat allergen-free food?

With food allergies increasing around the world and UK hospital admissions for children from allergic anaphylaxis up by 72% over the past ten years, food allergies deserve better understanding. It’s not just the life-threatening aspect of this allergy that is increasing it’s also the mild allergic responses that often cause discomfort and distress, particularly in young children. There are several reasons less severe food-triggered allergy symptoms go undiagnosed, firstly due to symptom similarity to other conditions such as food sensitivity and food intolerance and secondly, the allergy symptoms are considered isolated skin, respiratory or gastric conditions.

Food allergies take two forms, IgE-mediated food allergies and non-IgE-mediated food allergies. These terms come from the type of immune response each person is experiencing. Non-IgE mediated food allergies include what are called food sensitivities where reactions to food occur over a longer period of time and are less life-threatening and food intolerances which arise from a reduction in digestive enzymes, lactose intolerance for example, rather than an unexpected response from the immune system.

The incidence of IgE-mediated food allergies is more commonly found in young children particularly if eczema has been present. However, food allergies can appear at any age, but it is more common to see food sensitivity or food intolerance develop in adults.

The two key things to remember in identifying the type of food allergy are the speed of reaction and the type of reaction symptoms. Building up the profile of each symptom incident will help to determine the condition and cause.

Reaction time

A food allergy reaction (IgE) happens immediately, symptoms will appear almost always within seconds or minutes from the time the food was eaten. Observing this should help to begin to join the dots between the symptoms and the food eaten.

Immediate appearing food allergy symptoms include:

· An itchy sensation inside the mouth, throat or ears

· A raised itchy red rash known as urticaria or hives

· Swelling of the face, around the eyes, lips, tongue and roof of the mouth

· Stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea

Common foods causing immediate food allergy symptoms include:

Almost any food can cause a food allergy however the vast majority are caused by the most common allergy foods which are:

· Milk

· Eggs

· Peanuts

· Tree nuts (such as almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, Brazil nuts, cashews, pecans, pistachios and macadamia nuts)

· Fish

· Shellfish

What to do if you suspect you have a food allergy

If symptoms are affecting breathing, swallowing, or speaking then this should be reported immediately to the emergency services.

Mild to moderate symptoms should be discussed with your GP as soon as possible. It may be helpful to note the following for this conversation:

· When the symptoms first occurred and how frequently they have happened

· What foods had been eaten before the symptoms occurred

· What are the symptoms and how severe have they been

· Are there other allergic symptoms such as asthma, hay fever or eczema

· Does anyone else in the family have an allergy

The doctor may refer you to an allergy clinic. If a food allergy is identified the recommended treatment is the avoidance of that food.

Why we need to manage immediate type food allergies with care

It’s important to get your suspected food allergy identified as continual exposure to the food over time can increase the severity of the allergic reaction accordingly to the latest finding of the TRACE study.

I don’t have the immediate type food allergy symptoms but I know I am reacting to some foods.

Symptoms of food sensitivity or food intolerance are common and confusingly have similar symptoms to a food allergy. Our earlier articles, Top Four Lactose Intolerance Symptoms, and, 6 Signs you might be gluten intolerant may help you further.

Why are food allergies on the increase?

No one knows for sure, but reassuringly there have been many new studies looking at the connected effect of changes in gut bacteria and the development of adverse food reactions.

A review of the research looking at the gut microbiome of people with food allergies compared to healthy patients has shown changes occurring in their microbiome where certain non-beneficial strains of bacteria appear to precede the development of food allergy. It is interesting also to note that antibiotic use in early life has also been shown to increase the risk for the onward development of food allergies.

A varied and natural diet with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetable fibre has been shown to support the development of beneficial gut bacteria.

Henley Nutrition can help you to identify if you are reacting to foods and provide testing for food allergies, food sensitivities or food intolerance. Testing is undertaken from an easy-to-use finger prick blood, or urine sample test kit and will clearly identify the type of allergy reaction e.g. (IgE) or food sensitivity reaction (IgG) or if a lactose food intolerance is present. Screening for histamine intolerance is an additional service provided.

Call Henley Nutrition on 07831 120423 or visit

This information is not designed to replace the advice from your Doctor.


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