Although most food allergies start in adult, they can develop at any time or at any age. In fact, adults are having reactions to foods that they could once eat without a problem.
Reactions can be caused by either a food allergy or food intolerance. A food allergy is a true immune system response that can lead to severe symptoms such as hives, swelling of the throat, difficulty breathing, and even death if left untreated. A food intolerance, on the other hand, is a metabolic reaction, meaning that your body has difficulty processing a substance in the food such as a protein or sugar and they’re not usually life-threatening. The exact reasons for adult food allergies are largely unknown, but doctors believe that some people have a genetic predisposition to developing certain allergies or that it may be the preservatives, colorings, and other additives in our food supply that are causing these reactions.
In addition to the commonly known food allergens such as peanuts, eggs, milk, and soy, there are lesser known trigger foods that may be causing you discomfort. Here are four surprising foods that you should be aware of.
Sesame can be an adult food allergen
Although this allergy can be a bit surprising to those who are diagnosed, an allergy to sesame seeds or oil is rather common in parts of the world where this food is commonly included in the diet (such as the Middle East). As American diets incorporate more and more sesame products, it’s not surprising that those who may not have been exposed to this food as children are finding themselves allergic. The symptoms of this allergy can range from a skin rash to a fatal anaphylactic reaction. Sesame can be found in everything from cosmetics to pharmaceutical and food products such as baked goods, so those with this allergy need to be vigilant about reading food and cosmetics labels. You should also notify your physician and pharmacist of your allergy to prevent any pharmaceutical exposure.
Fresh produce can be an adult food allergen
We all know that fresh produce like apples and celery is healthy for us, but for some individuals, these fruits can turn on them. Instead of enjoying the refreshing, sweet taste of these ripe fruits, allergic individuals suffer from itchy and swelling around their mouths and throats shortly after eating known as Oral Allergy Syndrome (OAS). So what causes this unpleasant reaction? So if you were allergic to pollen as a kid, you could find that you may become allergic to some fresh produce later on in your life because your body mistakes the food’s proteins with the proteins found in pollen. But the good news for OAS sufferers is that when these foods are cooked they are much less likely to trigger an allergic response.
Sulfites can be an adult food allergen
Sulfites are commonly used as a preservative in many foods and medications. In addition to being added to foods like dried fruits and processed meats, sulfites can also occur naturally in foods such as wines and fermented beverages. When exposed to sulfites, you may experience swelling, itchiness, hives, or even a drop in lung function. Asthmatics with a sulfite allergy can experience an increase in asthmatic symptoms upon exposure and some individuals may even be at risk for anaphylaxis with exposure.
Foods with the highest levels of sulfites include wine, dried fruits (except for dark raisins and prunes), bottled lemon and lime juice, grape juice, molasses, and condiments including wine vinegar, gravies, and sauerkraut. These foods should be avoided in those with a suspected sulfite allergy.
Adults can experience an allergic reaction to meat
It seems bizarre, but it’s possible to become allergic to beef, pork, or even chicken. In meat allergy sufferers, the individual is typically experiencing an allergic reaction to the sugar in the meat instead of the protein. With this allergy, like many allergies, symptoms can range from abdominal cramps to deadly anaphylaxis. What makes this allergy so unique is that new research suggests that exposure to a tick may actually be the cause! Researchers believe that exposure to a tick known as the Lone Star tick may trigger the allergy by passing on a carbohydrate called alpha-gal to its host.
Keep in mind that if you experience swelling, itchy, hives, or difficulty breathing after consuming a certain food—even if it’s not one of the typical allergens—you may have a food allergy. Since reactions to allergens can increase in severity over time, it’s essential you identify any food you may be potentially allergic to and follow up with an allergist to confirm the diagnosis. For severe allergies, such as nut or seafood allergies, you may need to carry an epi-pen with you at all times in case of accidental exposure.
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