How to Deal with Food Allergies

Two Parts:Eliminating Trigger Foods from Your DietCoping with Food Allergies

Food allergies are a defensive response by your immune system to a specific food protein that you may eat.[1] Food allergies are relatively uncommon, affecting 6-8% of children and up to 3% of adults, and they can have symptoms that range from mild to life-threatening.[2] But by eliminating trigger foods and caring for your overall well-being, you can successfully deal with your food allergies.

Part 1
Eliminating Trigger Foods from Your Diet

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    Clear away trigger foods from the kitchen. Because your allergy is a result of a certain food, remove any products in your home that have it. This may minimize your risk of eating foods that cause allergic reactions.[3] The most common foods that trigger allergies are:
    • Eggs
    • Milk
    • Peanuts and tree nuts like walnuts
    • Wheat
    • Soy
    • Shellfish
    • Fish.[4]
    • Throw away foods if you’re unsure of their ingredients. Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) offers a long list of foods containing common allergens.[5]
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    Read the food label whenever you can. Many triggers are common ingredients in food and even some vitamins, so it’s important to identify products that may cause an allergic reaction.[6] Read food and product labels to determine if your product contains a trigger food. Be aware that US law requires that American food manufacturers list the top eight allergenic foods in plain language on packaging.[7] However, you may also want to look for common code names for allergens including:
    • Casein, lactalbumin, lactose, rennet casein, whey, and tagatose for milk
    • Flour, einkorn, seitan, triticale, vital wheat gluten, durum for wheat
    • Albumin, globulin, livetin, lysozyme, surimi, and vitellin for egg
    • Edamame, miso, natto, shoyu, tamari, tempeh, tofu for soy
    • Glucosamine or surimi for shellfish
    • Peanut protein hydrolysate for peanuts
    • Fish gelatin, nuoc mam, roe, sashimi, surimi for fish.[8]
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    Stock your pantry with trigger-free foods and alternatives. Even if you remove many of your favorite foods because of an allergy, you can restock your pantry and enjoy alternative foods that do contain any of your triggers. Using trigger-free foods and alternatives can minimize the risk of preparing a dish that will cause a reaction.
    • If you live in a home with others who consume your trigger foods, consider storing your food separately to minimize the risk of contamination.
    • Ask stores if they offer products for people with allergies. For example, many stores now have a section for wheat-free foods.
    • Use alternatives for common allergens. Some examples you can use instead of triggers are: rice or oat milk products for dairy, rice flours or corn-based products for wheat allergies, xanthan gum for eggs, roasted pumpkin or sunflower seeds for peanuts or tree nuts.[9]
    • Remember to read food labels to see if your triggers or common code names for them are listed. Avoid any food or product that isn’t labeled.[10]
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    Write meal plans. Preparing your meals is a safe way to minimize the risk of eating trigger foods. Plan your meals may not only prevent allergic reactions, but also ensure you’re getting enough vitamins and nutrients to maintain your well-being.[11]
    • Write a meal plan each week. Pay special attention to meals that you don’t eat at home such like lunch. Pack a lunch or alternative meal if you like. If you’re going to a restaurant, you may want to check out the menu before you go to figure out what you could eat.
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    Navigate restaurant visits. Having food allergies can make it difficult to eat at restaurants. Many places use products containing triggers and may prepare dishes on surfaces with allergens. Call ahead and ask questions about the menu and preparation to minimize your risk of an allergic reaction.[12]
    • Ask the manager, server, or chef if the restaurant can accommodate your allergy. You may want to explain your triggers.[13]
    • Inquire if the staff is trained about food allergies, if food for persons with allergies is prepared in a separate area with separate utensils, and if they offer any specialty products for people with allergies.[14]
    • Always be prepared if a restaurant doesn’t have your first choice.[15]
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    Minimize cross-contamination. It’s common to accidentally expose yourself to trigger foods through cross-contamination. Keeping vigilant about what you buy and how you store and prepare it may prevent allergic reactions.[16]
    • Use different utensils and preparation surfaces to prevent cross-contamination in your home.[17]
    • Consider having your own appliances, like toasters or blenders.
    • Wash your hands with soap and water before preparing food. This can often clear your hands of any contaminants.[18]

Part 2
Coping with Food Allergies

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    Seek medical treatment. If you find you’re your food allergies or symptoms are getting worse or you are having trouble coping with them, schedule an appointment with your doctor.[19] She can run tests for you, speak to you about how to cope, or suggest a psychiatrist to help you.
    • Your doctor may suggest running additional allergy tests including blood or skin tests, an elimination diet, a food diary, or an oral food challenge to figure out what is making you sick.[20]
    • Your doctor may also test for other conditions related to food allergies such as: anxiety, depression, or exercise.[21]
    • Ask your doctor if there is any medication that may help you. Make sure to take any medication she suggests or prescribes.[22]
    • Consider seeing a counselor if you are having a hard time coping with your food allergies.
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    Consult a dietitian. Ask your doctor to refer you to a dietician if you are having a hard time with your diet. She can help you learn to recognize triggers, identify and prepare nutritious alternative foods, and develop a meal plan that promotes your health.
    • Find a dietician or health professional that specializes food allergies. She can give you information on safe food choices, hidden triggers, and figuring out alternative meals when eating out.
    • If you can’t find a dietician or health professional that specializes in food allergies, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics lists registered dieticians in your area.[23]
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    Alert people about your allergies. Letting others know about your food allergies can be an important part of dealing with the condition. Being open about your triggers may prevent uncomfortable situations or questions, but it also may alert people about your condition in the event of an allergy attack.
    • Let friends, family members, co-workers, caregivers, and other important individuals know about your allergies. They may be able to help you in an emergency.[24]
    • Wear a medical alert bracelet or necklace, which can explain how to help you in an emergency.[25]
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    Ignore social pressure or stigmas. You will likely find that most people understand your food allergies and needs. Social pressure or stigmatizing from others may be a result of misinformation. Learning to ignore negative reactions can help you maintain a full and active life.[26]
    • You might feel embarrassed having to ask for special meals and considerations when you’re out. Explain your condition and don’t worry about how other people may react. Ignore any negative reactions, which may help you cope you’re your allergies.
    • Repeat the phrase “what other people think about me doesn’t matter.” This may minimize your embarrassment or feelings of guilt.[27]
    • Reframe any negative energy you feel by taking a deep breath, repeat the manta and thinking of something positive, like being on the top of a beautiful mountain.[28]
    • Love and accept yourself. For example, say “I may have food allergies, but they don’t control. I can go out for dinner and enjoy my time with friends and acquaintances.”[29]
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    Join a support group. Join a support group and attend events for individuals with food allergies. Not only can both provide you unconditional support from others with the same condition, but they may have idea for dealing with various aspects of the condition.[30]
    • Attend events or conferences about food allergies in your area. These may provide you contacts and information to help you with your specific allergies.[31] For example, FARE offers the Food Allergy awareness week.[32]
    • Inform yourself by watching programs for people who have food allergies. For example, FARE and the Discovery Channel produced a recent documentary about food allergies.[33]
    • FARE offers a service to locate a food allergy support group in your local area.[34]
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    Prepare for possible attacks. It may ease your mind to prepare yourself for possible allergy attacks from unintended exposure.[35] Keep people you’re with informed about your allergy or carrying emergency medication.[36]
    • Know the signs of anaphylaxis and how to treat it. Every reaction can be different depending in your sensitivity to the allergen and the size of the exposure.
    • Ask your doctor to prescribe emergency epinephrine if you are prone to severe allergic reactions.[37]
    • Carry over-the-counter anti-histamines if you have mild allergic reactions.[38]
    • Let servers at restaurants know about your allergies.[39]
    • Compose an action plan for attacks and place it in your purse or wallet. Include information on how to care for you and who to call in the event of an emergency.[40]

Tips

  • Never hesitate to ask your waiter, host, or friends about the ingredients in the food they are serving. It is better to ask than to have an allergic reaction.

Warnings

  • If you are having a severe allergic reaction, use your epinephrine and seek immediate medical attention.
  • If you are having an allergic reaction and are able, get someone’s attention so that they can help you.

Sources and Citations

  1. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases_conditions/hic_Allergy_Overview/hic_Food_Allergies
  2. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/food-allergy/basics/definition/con-20019293
  3. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases_conditions/hic_Allergy_Overview/hic_Food_Allergies
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Article Info

Categories: Allergies and Immunization