I have a problem with certain foods. What now?

If you think you have a food sensitivity, take heart and have patience. You may feel discouraged by a complex new world of food restrictions, but remember that it comes hand in hand with hope for better health!

It is very important to speak to your doctor about your food problems. He or she can discuss with you your symptoms, suspected triggers, and family medical history, and can perform a physical examination to rule other possible causes or illnesses. Your doctor may also refer you to an allergist, a doctor who specializes in allergies and disorders of the immune system. This process plays a key role in a possible eventual diagnosis of a food allergy or intolerance.

To assist in determining the nature of your food problem, your doctor may also ask you to do the following:

Log your food and medication intake and symptoms. This involves keeping tabs on what you eat and drink at mealtimes (and snack times) and writing it down in a food diary. You also need to mark down what medications you take and when you take them. Make sure to include notes on subsequent physical reactions. This can help you and your doctor connect the dots with an accurate, detailed overall picture. It's possible that medications may be playing a part with your symptoms too.

Follow an elimination diet. By removing suspected triggers from your diet for a short time (a week or two), you and your doctor can monitor your body's reaction once the foods are gradually reintroduced to your system. While this isn't a foolproof method of assessment, it can provide some insight. Naturally, for people with suspected severe allergies, deliberately ingesting the allergen is not a safe or wise option.

Have a skin test. To help identify your particular allergen(s), your doctor will lightly prick or scratch a few spots on your back or part of your arm with a needle, and then place a small, diluted quantity of the suspected allergen on the exposed area so that the substance can reach below the surface of the skin. If, after about 15 minutes, a small bump or redness appears, there's about a 50% chance that you are allergic to that substance. If no reaction occurs, you have about a 90% chance that you are not allergic to that substance.

Do a blood test. A blood sample taken at your doctor's office can be sent to the laboratory for further testing. Unfortunately, the findings from this type of test may not be conclusive, so make sure you discuss with your doctor how to best understand your results.

If you are diagnosed with a food allergy, there is as yet no magic cure to make it go away. The best management technique is to avoid your allergens altogether. This means you'll need to learn to identify and recognize your "enemy" so you can keep it out of your diet. And the flip side is that you'll need to learn and remember what foods you can eat!

For those with a severe allergy at risk of anaphylaxis (a life-threatening form of allergic response), your doctor may prescribe an injectable medication called epinephrine, also known under the brand names EpiPen® and Twinject®. You will need to carry this medication with you at all times, as you may not be able to predict or control your exposure to your allergen – and if you need it, you'll need it fast. Immediate injection after exposure to your allergen is crucial for those at risk of anaphylactic shock. If you have this medication, you may wish to educate your family, friends, and colleagues on how to administer it should the need arise and you are not able to give it to yourself.

For those with milder allergic responses, antihistamine pills (e.g., diphenhydramine, hydroxyzine, cetirizine) may help to control or reduce your allergic response.

Feeling daunted? Don't! Remember that working with your body to give it the food it wants and removing the food it doesn't will yield positive results for your health. Yes, you may need to change your diet, but keep sight of all the foods still available to you. You may even discover some new favourites!

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2021. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source: www.medbroadcast.com/healthfeature/gethealthfeature/Food-Allergy-Food-Enemy