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2023-05-22 11:30:00

9 Most Common Food Allergens and How to Stay Healthy

fried egg and bread pklatter

You probably know at least one person with food allergies. In fact, you might have one yourself. What are the most common food allergens in the US, and what do these allergic reactions look like? This blog will explore these questions and more. Let’s dive in!

The Most Common Food Allergens: 9 Major Triggers

According to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), these are the most common food allergens:

Sesame was added more recently. In fact, the first eight of these allergens make up more than 90% of all food allergies.

There are many allergens, and this list certainly isn’t exhaustive. However, these are the most likely triggers.

Allergic reactions and symptoms can vary from person to person. However, an allergic reaction will commonly manifest as:

Person scratching their arm during an allergic reaction

In more extreme cases, anaphylaxis may occur. This reaction can happen within seconds or minutes of ingesting an allergen, and it can be life-threatening. During anaphylactic shock, the immune system releases chemicals that can cause your blood pressure to nosedive and your airways to narrow, making it difficult to breathe. Other symptoms include a quick or weak pulse, rashes, nausea, and vomiting.

If you’re experiencing anaphylaxis, you need an injection of epinephrine to address it. A trip to the ER is also vital.

In addition to the fact that allergens and symptoms can differ from person to person, so too can the severity. For instance, one person might need to eat a decent amount of an allergen in order to experience a reaction, whereas another person might notice a reaction just by touching it.

Can Your Food Allergies Go Away?

There’s no clear-cut answer to this one. Over time, it’s possible that allergies to soy, milk, eggs, and wheat can go away. More specifically, research tells us that about 80% of people with an allergy to eggs, milk, and wheat will outgrow them, most often by the age of 16. Roughly 20% to 25% of kids with peanut allergies outgrow them, meaning this allergy is more commonly lifelong. Among people who do outgrow this allergy, approximately 80% will do so by the age of eight. Allergies to fish, shellfish, and tree nuts tend to be lifelong.

Various types of nut

What Happens During an Allergic Reaction, Anyway?

Your allergic reaction might display itself in your nose or eyes, but that’s not where it starts. Allergic reactions actually start in your immune system — the system in your body designed to help protect you. Basically, your immune system encounters the allergen — whether it’s a peanut, dog hair, or an environmental allergen like dust — and thinks it’s a scary invader. So, it reacts by producing antibodies to fight that invader. This is why you end up experiencing pesky symptoms like a runny nose, watery eyes, and a scratchy throat. That’s your body trying to help you.

Note that there’s a difference between food allergies and food intolerance (also called sensitivity). Whereas the former involves the immune system, the latter revolves around a chemical reaction because the stomach can’t digest that food. This is why the symptoms are more gastrointestinal in nature — like gas, an upset stomach, or diarrhea.

Where do these allergies even come from, though? Are food allergies genetic? Well, allergies do run in families. So, if you have relatives who have allergies, then that means you’re more likely to have them (although it’s not guaranteed). However, genetics alone don’t explain them. Allergies can develop whenever your food tolerance breaks down, or you don’t build up a tolerance quickly enough.

Can We Prevent Our Children from Developing Allergies?

This is an interesting question because the medical community has had a change of heart! For many years, healthcare providers advised parents to avoid feeding their babies common allergens until they were at an age when their immune systems could adequately protect them. Then, we learned that we might’ve had it backward.

One study ended up learning that by introducing peanuts early on with children, we could significantly decrease the frequency of the development of peanut allergies, even among children at high risk of the allergy.

Now, many parents make a point of introducing all types of foods to their children early on so that their immune systems and stomachs have the opportunity to learn how to handle them.

How Can You Confirm You Have an Allergy?

If you think you might be experiencing allergic reactions but you’re not sure what’s causing them, getting an allergy/sensitivity test can confirm. eNational offers advanced testing for allergies and sensitivities, including basic food allergies, comprehensive food sensitivity, environmental allergies, and our celiac panel. All of these tests require a simple blood draw, and your results will be available within six business days.

You can also try an elimination diet, where you exclude certain foods or food groups in an attempt to isolate and identify items that don’t agree with your body.

eNational has more than 4,000 locations spanning the US, and you don’t need to visit your doctor first. We make scheduling a test quick and easy — you can do it right on our website in just a few clicks. Should you need to follow up on your test results, you’ll have the opportunity to speak with a healthcare provider.

If a food allergy or sensitivity is affecting your well-being, don’t wait. Order a test with eNational today.