8 Food Allergies You May Not Realise You Have
By Evan Varick
Health experts are still sorting out the causes, but estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggest rates of food allergies have jumped 18 percent over the past two decades. Today, up to 15 million Americans have a food allergy, including 4 percent of all adults and 5 percent of children, according to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
While there are dozens of triggers, you can trace about 90 percent of food allergies back to eight allergens: milk, wheat, soybeans, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, and shellfish, says Joy Dubost, Ph.D., R.D., former senior director of nutrition for the National Restaurant Association. These are the eight allergens you’ll never find in Kate Farms shakes.
Here’s everything you need to know about those top allergens, including the signs, symptoms, and foods in which they love to lurk.
Sneaky Allergen #1: Milk
Don’t confuse a milk allergy with a lactose intolerance, says Nathan Myers, R.D., a clinical dietitian and adjunct professor at New York University. While a lactose intolerance could lead to some allergy-like symptoms—including diarrhea or an upset stomach—those symptoms are the result of your gut’s inability to digest certain milk sugars.
A milk allergy, on the other hand, is an immune system reaction to milk proteins that may cause skin issues like hives, as well as headaches, an itchy throat, vomiting, and a bloody stool, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI). Like all the food allergens on this list, you’ll need an allergist to confirm your milk issue with a skin-prick or blood test.
If you’re allergic to milk, you’ll have to be careful about the foods you buy and consume. “Along with checking the ingredients list for milk or dairy, look for things like whey or casein protein, which come from milk,” Myers says. “Any product that talks about added protein or protein enhancement is also something you want to examine, because that protein is often milk-derived.
Sneaky Allergen #2: Wheat
Symptoms of a wheat allergy can include hives, nausea, indigestion, stomach cramps, a stuffy or runny nose, headaches, and asthma, says the ACAAI.
Of course, any bread or pasta product is likely to contain wheat. But you also need to watch out for meat replacement items like vegan burgers, which may have added wheat proteins, Myers says. Ditto sauces and dressings used in Asian cuisines.
It’s important to know that a wheat allergy isn’t the same thing as a gluten sensitivity or Celiac disease. While those gluten-related conditions are wrapped up with wheat and may cause symptoms similar to an allergy, some gluten-free products can still contain wheat.
Sneaky Allergen #3: Soybeans
Soybeans and soy are added to many foods to boost protein and enhance the item’s texture or flavor characteristics, Myers says. Avoid soy sauce, miso, edamame, tofu, tempeh, vegetable gum, vegetable starch, Asian cuisines, and vegetable broths, says Dubost.
Symptoms of a soybean allergy include rashes, an itchy mouth, wheezing or asthma symptoms, a stuffy nose, and the nausea and other gut symptoms common to most food allergens, according to the ACAAI.
At Kate Farms, we not only eliminate these top allergens, but each of our Komplete shakes has at least 16 grams of protein, 5 grams of fiber, and a host of vitamins and minerals that deliver awesome nutritional benefits.
Sneaky Allergen #4: Eggs
While egg allergies are usually tied to compounds found in egg whites (not the yolk), Dubost says you need to avoid eggs altogether if you want to steer clear of symptoms, which can include skin reactions, breathing problems, and stomach pain.
Nix ice cream, salad dressings, baked goods, and foods that contain mayonnaise, meringue, eggnog, albumin, lecithin, nougat, and marshmallows, Dubost says.
One more thing that may contain egg protein? The flu shot. If you suspect you have an egg allergy, consult your doctor before getting poked this season.
Sneaky Allergen #5: Peanuts
Because peanuts are so cheap, they’re used in all sorts of food products, Myers says. Inspect crumb toppings on desserts, candy, and energy bars—even those that aren’t peanut or peanut-butter flavored. Many types of Asian dishes also contain peanuts or peanut-infused sauces.
Peanut allergy symptoms range from itchy skin and hives to a tingling mouth or throat, a runny nose, and trouble breathing.
Sneaky Allergen #6: Tree Nuts
Roughly 40 percent of people with a peanut allergy will also react to at least one type of tree nut, the ACAAI says. Symptoms include problems breathing or swallowing, abdominal pain or cramps, nasal congestion, diarrhea, and an itchy mouth or throat.
“When you’re eating out, you need to be upfront with the waitstaff, because many restaurants use tree nuts as a garnish—such as a couple slivers of almond—or they throw cashews in to add crunch,” says Myers. Nut oils and butters are also triggers.
Sneaky Allergen #7: Fish
The symptoms of a fish allergy overlap with those mentioned above. If you discover you’re allergic to one fish, many doctors recommend avoiding all fish to stay out of trouble. And while most people who have a fish allergy are allergic to the protein in its flesh, it’s also possible to be allergic to the gelatin in fish bones and skin.
Watch out for sauces and condiments, Myers says. For example, since Worcestershire sauce contains anchovies, it can trigger a reaction in people with fish allergies. Many Asian cuisines also contain fish or fish sauce, as do imitation crab and shellfish.
Sneaky Allergen #8: Shellfish
Along with the typical food allergy symptoms, a shellfish allergy may also cause a persistent cough, wheezing, a tight or hoarse throat, pale or blue-tinged skin, and dizziness, the ACAAI says.
Crustaceans—shrimp, lobster, and crab—are the most common allergy triggers. (Some people who have a reaction to these can tolerate other types of shellfish like mussels, clams, oysters, and scallops.)
Myers says avoiding shellfish can be tricky because, like peanuts, they’re often added to food products to enhance texture.
“Shellfish shells and bones are used to create gelatin, which turns up in a lot of foods,” he says. “If you see gelatin listed as an ingredient and it’s not specified where the gelatin is coming from, you should call the food’s manufacturer to find out.”