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What is a food allergy?

Ms. Vandana  R. Sheth
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

According to the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network, "Food allergy occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks a food protein. Ingestion of the offending food may trigger the sudden release of chemicals, including histamine, resulting in symptoms of an allergic reaction. The symptoms may be mild (rashes, hives, itching, swelling, etc.) or severe (trouble breathing, wheezing, loss of consciousness, etc.). A food allergy can be potentially fatal. Scientists estimate that as many as 15 million Americans suffer from food allergies."

A food allergy occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks a food component. Ingestion of the offending food may trigger the sudden release of chemicals, including histamine, resulting in symptoms of an allergic reaction. The symptoms may be mild (rashes, hives, itching, swelling, etc.) or severe (trouble breathing, wheezing, loss of consciousness, etc.). A food allergy can be potentially fatal.

A food allergy is the body's reaction when the immune system gets confused and attacks things in food that aren’t harmful. When people have a food allergy, the B-cells in the immune system get confused and think that antigens on food are the same as germ antigens. An antigen that people are allergic to is called an allergen. The B-cells fire antibodies at the food and call for backup. Then histamine and other signals make the blood vessels wider and more white blood cells rush in. This is called an allergic reaction.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.