Food Allergy Myths - Clarifying the myth of being sensitive to food!
Updated: Sep 17, 2022
Michelle Lee, HK BioTek Intern
1. "All countries in the world have the same most common food allergens."
The foods that cause food allergies are different among countries and races, depending on genes, regions, diets, and lifestyle habits. For example, food allergy to nuts or peanuts is more common in the United States, while the most common food allergens in Hong Kong are eggs and dairy products.
2. "It must be the food itself that caused the food allergy."
There are other allergens apart from foods, such as artificial flavorings, coloring agents, preservatives, food additives, pesticide residues on the surfaces of vegetables and fruits. For example, the residues of food additives and preservatives are found in rice products, and may cause allergic reactions if we frequently dine out. However, you can be safe from food allergy if you cook the congee on your own.
Furthermore, residues of pesticides are also left on the surface of fruits. The pesticides residues are not only causing allergic reactions, but may also accumulate in the body and affect health in the long run. Therefore, you can consider eating fruits after peeling off the skins. Vegetables can be soaked in water and rinsed thoroughly to wash away the soluble pesticides. You can also use knives to remove the stalks and roots of fruits and vegetables which are difficult to be cleaned.
3. "I have food allergy only when obvious symptoms occur, e.g. eczema/urticaria."
The severity of food-induced allergic reactions may vary. Food allergy symptoms on easily-spotted body parts (e.g. eczema and urticaria on skin) are more obvious. However, there are other allergic symptoms that deserve more attention. For example, symptoms such as indigestion problems, muscle and joint pain, swelling and itching of ears and eyes, rhinitis and nasal allergies, etc. Even some other studies have pointed out that food sensitivity is related to cognitive systems and causing mental diseases (e.g. anxiety, learning disabilities, etc.)
4. "I have noticed that I show allergic symptoms to certain foods. Does it make sense to quit all these foods by myself? Is it necessary to quit all foods which easily cause allergies?"
Do not quit any kinds of foods based on your own judgement! You should conduct a food allergy test and consult medical professionals. The general public may not be aware of which foods and which food groups that they are allergic to, and also the degree of sensitivity, etc. When they stubbornly refrain from eating particular foods, it may affect the body's nutrient absorption. After the food allergy test, professionals will explain the results of the food allergy test report in detail and ask about your situations patiently. They also suggest other food alternatives to replenish the possible deficient nutrients after abstinence. The public should not undergo abstinence without consulting medical professionals, especially if it will affect the growth of children and adolescents. If you are highly allergic to certain foods and need abstinence, you should pay attention to maintain nutritional balance. For instance, if you are allergic to milk, you can choose soy milk, oat milk, and almond milk to supplement the needs for calcium and protein.
5. "Is there no other way to treat eczema apart from abstinence?"
The current ways of treating eczema also include oral and topical drugs, which can relieve the itching and pain caused by eczema. There are also immunosuppressive agents, biologics for injections, etc. for patients with moderate to severe eczema. But of course one of the best ways is abstinence. You should develop a personalized diet plan as soon as possible and choose other food to substitute the allergic foods. This can prevent the worsening of eczema and ensure that you have sufficient nutrition.
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