Food Allergies Treatment

Managing a food allergy requires the expertise of an allergist. At Impact Medical, our specialty lies in diagnosing and effectively managing food allergies to ensure that our patients can lead healthier, worry-free lives.

What Is a Food Allergy?

A food allergy, classified as an adverse reaction to food, involves an abnormal immune response triggered by specific proteins. This immune response is primarily mediated by immunoglobulin E (IgE). The activation of IgE leads to the release of various chemical mediators, including histamine, prostaglandins, tryptase, and leukotrienes. These released chemicals are responsible for the manifestation of food allergy symptoms.

 

Food Allergies vs Food Intolerances

Food allergies and food intolerances represent distinct reactions to food, differing in their underlying mechanisms and severity of symptoms. Food intolerances are adverse reactions primarily triggered by nonimmunologic factors, often confining their effects to the digestive system. These reactions, although uncomfortable, are generally not as severe as food allergies. Common symptoms of food intolerance include nausea, gas, cramps, abdominal pain, diarrhea, irritability, or headaches. Examples of food intolerances encompass various factors, such as the pharmacologic properties of the food (like simple sugars causing hyperactivity in children), toxins in the food (as seen in scombroid fish poisoning), foods that exacerbate gastroesophageal reflux (typically acidic or spicy foods), metabolic disorders (e.g., lactose intolerance), and autoimmune conditions provoked by gluten exposure (as observed in celiac disease). These distinctions help individuals and healthcare professionals differentiate between the various responses to food, making it essential to properly identify and manage each type of reaction.

Food Allergy Symptoms

Food allergies can cause either immediate or chronic symptoms. Below are some common symptoms.

Hives

Raised, itchy skin welts that can vary in size and shape

Swelling

Swelling of the face, lips, tongue, or throat

Atopic Dermatitis (eczema)

A chronic skin condition characterized by redness, itching, and rash

Gastrointestinal Symptoms

Includes abdominal pain, cramping, or diarrhea

Throat Tightness

A sensation of constriction or narrowing in the throat, which can be alarming

Vomiting

Sudden and forceful expulsion of stomach contents, often due to severe allergic reactions

Difficulty Breathing

Respiratory distress, characterized by shortness of breath or wheezing

Anaphylaxis

Severe, potentially life-threatening allergic reaction

Failure to Thrive

Pediatric patients may experience inadequate weight gain and growth

Common Food Allergens

Although almost any food can lead to an allergic reaction, the most common food allergens include:

  • Cow’s Milk: Dairy products such as cow’s milk, cheese, butter and yogurt
  • Egg: Found in several foods as obvious as scrambled eggs and omelets, to french toast, pancakes, waffles and baked goods such as cake and cookies
  • Wheat: Present in many grains and foods, including bread, pasta, and cereals
  • Soy: Also known as edamame beans, it’s commonly found in processed foods, soy sauce, and tofu
  • Peanut: A prevalent allergen found in peanut butter, snacks, and certain sauces
  • Tree nuts: Includes almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, pine nuts, macadamia nuts, pistachios, and cashews and often found in desserts and baked goods
  • Fish: Such as salmon, tuna, halibut, whitefish and codfish, commonly served in various culinary preparations
  • Shellfish: Includes crustaceans like shrimp, crab, and lobster, as well as mollusks like clams, mussels, and oysters

Diagnosing & Treating Food Allergies

Medical History

The patient’s history is one of the key aspects in making the diagnosis of a food allergy. It is important to get a history of prior reactions to foods, but also to obtain your past medical history and family history to assess risk factors for food allergies.

Diagnostic Testing

In addition to your history, we will perform testing to assess for possible food allergies. Food allergy testing can include skin prick-puncture testing and/or laboratory testing (ImmunoCAP) for specific foods.

Treatment

Once the allergen has been identified, strict avoidance is recommended. Your allergist will develop a food allergy action plan.

Food Allergy Testing in New Jersey

Diagnostic testing will be used to identify which food(s) the patient is allergic to.
Prick-Puncture Testing
This involves placing a small amount of substance (allergen) on the skin and then “pricking” the skin which allows the allergen in a liquid form to penetrate the skin.
ImmunoCAP Testing
This is a blood test that can also evaluate specific allergies. It detects the presence of an allergic antibody (IGE) specific to certain foods.

Treatment of Food Allergies in New Jersey

The primary treatment for food allergies is avoidance. Rescue medications do play a role in case of accidental exposure.
Rescue Medication
As a part of your food allergy action plan, your medical provider will recommend having emergency medications available including diphenhydramine (Benadryl) and an epinephrine auto-injector (EpiPen or Auvi-Q).

What is Eosinophilic Esophagitis (EoE)?

EoE is one of the more common types of eosinophilic gastrointestinal disorders. It is a chronic inflammatory condition of the esophagus that is characterized by the presence of increased eosinophils in the lining of the esophagus. Eosinophils are allergy cells that release inflammatory chemicals that can lead to irritation or damage to the esophagus and interfere with its function.

Symptoms of Eosinophilic Esophagitis:

  • Failure to thrive in children
  • Reflux
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Food impaction in esophagus

Treatment for Eosinophilic Esophagitis:

  • Avoidance of food triggers (both allergic and non-allergic) and environmental allergen triggers
  • Allergen Immunotherapy (Allergy Shots)
  • Medications: Proton Pump Inhibitors such as omeprazole (Prilosec) or esomeprazole (nexium), swallowed inhaled steroids such as fluticasone (Flovent) and budesonide (Pulmicort Respules)

 

What is Allergic Eosinophilic Gastroenteritis (AEG)?

This is a disease in which the lining of the GI tract becomes inflamed with eosinophils. Eosinophils are a type of white blood cell that play a prominent role in allergic inflammation. AEG can be the result of either a true food allergy or a poorly defined immune response to a food.

Common Foods Associated with Allergic Eosinophilic Gastroenteritis:

  • Cow’s milk
  • Egg
  • Soy
  • Peanuts
  • Tree nuts
  • Fish
  • Shellfish
  • Wheat 

Treatment for AEG includes avoidance of the food trigger.

What is Food Protein Induced Enterocolitis Syndrome (FPIES)?

This is a non-IGE mediated food response that results in severe vomiting, diarrhea, and dehydration. Although any food can be associated with this diagnosis, the most common foods include cow’s milk, soy, rice and oats. It’s more common in young children and typically outgrown by ages 2-3 years old. However, FPIES can still be reported in older children and adults.

Symptoms are delayed, typically appearing 4-6 hours after ingestion of the food. Symptoms often resolve within 24 hours and include:

  • Paleness & sweating
  • Fatigue
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Dehydration

Diagnosing & Treating FPIES

There is no diagnostic test for FPIES. Diagnosis is made based on clinical history. Treatment for FPIES includes strict avoidance of the allergen. If there is accidental exposure and symptoms develop, emergency treatment is necessary because of the risk of severe dehydration and cardiovascular collapse. Acute treatment includes the administration of intravenous fluids and possibly an anti-nausea medication such as ondansetron (Zofran).

What is Food Dependent Exercise Induced Anaphylaxis (FDEIA)?

FDEIA is a rare condition with a prevalence of 0.05%. It only occurs with the combination of a specific food and exercise. The patient can typically eat the food without symptoms. FDEIA only occurs if you eat and then exercise within 4-6 hours of ingestion. The reaction usually occurs within the first 30 minutes of starting physical activity. Symptoms include itchiness, hives and swelling, coughing, wheezing, chest tightness, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Foods that have most often been reported to cause this condition include wheat, shellfish, nuts, tomatoes, peanuts, fish, pork, beef, mushrooms, hazelnuts, eggs, peaches, apples, milk, and alcohol.

Prevention involves avoiding the combination of the trigger food and exercise. Treatment includes having a food allergy action plan in place – which includes diphenhydramine (Benadryl) and an epinephrine auto-injector (EpiPen or Auvi-Q).

What is Oral Allergy Syndrome (Food Pollen Syndrome)?

This is a specific type of food allergy that is characterized by symptoms that are generally limited to the oral cavity and include:

  • Itchy mouth
  • Itchy throat
  • Itchy tongue
  • Swelling of the mouth, lips, or tongue

Oral allergy syndrome can progress to a severe allergic reaction, but this is very uncommon. This type of reaction occurs in the heat and acid-labile proteins are found in certain fresh fruits and vegetables. These delicate proteins are denatured (broken down) by heat and acid, and therefore if cooked or processed, patients will not react. This also explains why the reaction does not progress beyond oral symptoms because as soon as the food reaches the acid in the stomach, it again is denatured (or broken down). The proteins that lead to oral allergy syndrome are known to cross-react with certain pollen.

Examples of pollens and a few of their cross-reacting foods are listed below:

  • Birch pollen: apple, peach, plum, pear, cherry, carrot
  • Ragweed pollen: melon and banana
  • Mugwort pollen (weed): carrot, broccoli, and celery
  • Orchard pollen (grass): melon, tomato, white potato

Food Allergies FAQs

It is not a simple answer. The majority of children with an allergy to cow’s milk, egg, soy and wheat will outgrow food allergies. On the other hand, only about 20% of patients with an allergy to peanut and tree nut will outgrow their food allergies.

Earlier, as young as 4 months of life. Recent data suggests that the earlier introduction of foods results in a lower likelihood of developing food allergies.

No. Not all patients with pollen allergies develop oral allergy syndrome. Only avoid those foods in which symptoms appear.

Yes. The only FDA approved treatment for food allergies at this time is Palforzia. This is peanut allergen powder that is used to desensitize individuals with a peanut allergy. It is an oral immunotherapy (OIT) treatment.

Yes. There are currently a number of different concepts being looked at to desensitize or make individuals “less allergic” to foods. Examples include:

Epicutaneous Immunotherapy (EPIT) to peanuts – commonly known as the “peanut patch”

Oral Mucosal Immunotherapy (OMIT) to peanuts – commonly known as the peanut toothpaste

Explore our food allergies resources today.