What are allergies?
An allergy occurs when your body overreacts to foreign particles (which are usually harmless) such as pollen, food, dust, drugs, etc.
The substances that cause such a reaction are known as “Allergens.”
What are the symptoms of allergy?
The following are common symptoms of an allergy:
- Itchy, runny or blocked nose
- Itchy, red and watery eyes
- Shortness of breath
- Tightness in chest
- Swollen lips, face, eyes or tongue
- Stomach ache
- Dry, red, cracked skin
They vary based on the type of allergen and the way you get into contact with it.
What foods cause allergy?
Some common allergy-causing foods include:
- Wheat (Gluten allergy)
- Nuts: peanuts, walnuts, almonds, pine nuts, brazil nuts & pecans
- Meat (beef, chicken, pork, and mutton)
- Seeds: poppy, sesame, sunflower
- Spices: garlic, coriander, mustard, caraway
What are the most common allergies?
A lot of things can trigger an allergic reaction.
It occurs when your body attacks something harmless such as pollen, foods, dander, etc. defensively.
The most common allergies include:
When you sneeze or have a runny/stuffy nose, itchy & watery eyes when you’re exposed to pollen from plants like grasses, weeds, trees, etc.
This allergy can be treated with OTC drugs and allergy shots.
You could also prevent those symptoms by staying indoors on windy days when the pollen counts are high or use air conditioners.
Pet dander allergy
Some of you might be allergic to proteins in your pet animal’s saliva or the oil glands in their skin.
You could use a HEPA filter or get a preventive allergy shot.
You could also try avoiding pets into your room and ensure he bathes regularly.
Dust mite allergy
You could get allergic to the tiny bugs that live in your mattresses, bedding, upholstery, carpets, curtains, etc.
They feed on your dead skin cells and thrive in high humidity.
To avoid this, use hypoallergenic beddings, pillows, mattress covers, etc. and ensure that you wash them every week in hot water.
Also try to avoid dust-collecting items like curtains, carpet, etc.
It could also cause skin redness or itching which might last for days or weeks together.
In some rare cases, they can trigger life-threatening reactions called ‘anaphylaxis.’
You could get preventive shots or take epinephrine when you’re severely allergic.
It grows in damp and moist places like bathrooms, basements, attics, etc.
Breathing in such areas can cause allergies in some people.
Foods like milk, peanuts, shellfish, eggs, etc. can cause allergies in some people within minutes of eating them.
Characteristic symptoms include difficulty in breathing, hives, swelling around the mouth and other symptoms like diarrhea, bloating and vomiting.
It is caused when latex in items like medical devices, disposable gloves, condoms, etc. triggers a reaction leading to itchy red skin, breathing difficulties, etc.
Common symptoms of latex allergy include rashes, hives, itchy eyes, runny nose, wheezing, sneezing, etc.
Medicines like penicillin, aspirin, etc. can trigger allergies in some people.
Common symptoms include hives, eye irritation, swelling of face, mouth, throat, etc.
It is important to tell your doctor what drugs you’re allergic to every time you get any prescription so that your treatment excludes them.
Do allergies run in the family?
There is a strong genetic basis established for allergic diseases.
Several Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have been employed for allergic diseases, and significant associations have been reported. About 100 genes have been published for asthma and other allergies.
The prevalence of allergic traits with respect to family history was studied and the results demonstrated an incremental increase in the risks of developing allergic diseases like asthma, allergic rhinitis, allergic dermatitis when one or both parents have these allergies and about >3 times risk when they have more than one first-degree relative who is affected.
What is the difference between allergy and intolerance?
As many as 80% of what’s presumed to be food allergies are intolerances rather than an allergic response.
Since both allergies and intolerances have similar symptoms, there can be confusion between the two.
A real food allergy occurs when your immune system reacts in such a way that it affects multiple organs in your body.
While allergies can be life-threatening or severe, intolerances are usually less severe and are often limited only to digestive issues.
You can eat small amounts of the offending food when you have an intolerance.
For instance, If you’re lactose intolerant, You also have options like switching to lactose-free milk or take lactase enzyme pills for digestion.
If you react to consuming a particular food, you should consult your doctor to find out if you have a food allergy or food intolerance because, if it was a food allergy, it could be life-threatening even if your past reactions have been only mild.
But if it is just an intolerance, you might be recommended steps to follow that aids digestion or treat your underlying condition which might have caused it.
How do you know if you have a food intolerance?
You have food intolerance when you find it difficult to digest certain foods or if you react unpleasantly upon consuming them.
Food intolerances can include symptoms like bloating, stomach pain, diarrhea, skin rashes, itching, etc.
There aren’t any specific tests to diagnose food intolerance.
The only way to find that out is by monitoring your symptoms after consuming foods you think you’re intolerant to.
What are the most common food intolerances?
Here are some of the most common types of food intolerances
It is caused by a deficiency of the enzyme ‘Lactase’ which is essential for the digestion of Lactose sugar found in Milk and dairy products.
Symptoms: stomach pain, bloating, diarrhea, gas, and nausea.
It occurs when you are sensitive towards proteins found in wheat, rye, barley, and triticale.
Symptoms: abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, fatigue, headache, joint pain, skin rashes, anxiety, depression, and Anemia.
It occurs when one is sensitive to caffeine (a bitter chemical found in beverages like coffee, tea, soda, energy drinks, etc.)
While most adults can have up to four cups of coffee without having any side-effects, some people are more sensitive to caffeine and can experience adverse reactions.
Symptoms: nervousness, insomnia, anxiety, jitters, rapid heartbeat, restlessness, etc.
It is a natural substance secreted by plants as a means of defense against environmental stressors like insects, diseases, etc., which are found in a wide range of foods like fruits, vegetables, teas, coffee, spices, honey, and nuts.
Some people are extremely sensitive towards them and suffer from adverse reactions even when consumed in small amounts.
Symptoms: sinus infections, nasal & sinus polyps, stuffy nose, asthma, diarrhea, colitis, hives, etc.
It is secreted by bacteria during fermentation and food storage.
They are found in a large variety of foods. (Such as fermented foods, cured meats, aged cheeses, avocados, citrus fruits, smoked fish, and fermented alcoholic beverages like wine & beer).
Although there are many types of amines, the histamines are most frequently linked to intolerances.
Symptoms: skin flushing, headaches, hives, itching, diarrhea, stomach pain, anxiety, low BP.
Fermented oligo-, di-, mono-saccharides and polyols (FODMAPs)
It is a group of short-chain carbohydrates naturally present in a variety of foods (like apples, soft cheeses, honey, beer, beans, bread, artichokes, milk, lentils, etc.) that can cause digestive distress in some individuals.
This happens when the intestinal bacteria ferment these foods producing gas and causing bloating & discomfort.
Symptoms: stomach ache, bloating, diarrhea, gas, and constipation.
Occurs when people with this condition consume sugar present in fruits and vegetables, honey, sweeteners, etc.,
This is characterized by sugar malabsorption in the intestine where the sugar gets fermented by the gut bacteria to cause digestive distress.
Symptoms: abdominal pain, reflux, diarrhea, gas, bloating, vomiting, and nausea.
It is the chemical commonly used as food preservatives and can be intolerable to some individuals.
This sensitivity is quite prevalent in people with Asthma.
Symptoms: hives, stuffy nose, hypotension, flushing, coughing, wheezing, diarrhea, skin swelling, etc.
Some other foods that cause intolerance include eggs, peanuts, shellfish, corn, soy, aspartame (an artificial sweetener), MSG (Monosodium glutamate- a flavor enhancer), food colorings, sugar alcohols, yeast, etc.
Do lactose and gluten intolerance go together?
It is reported that one out of every 100 individuals in North America suffers from celiac disease and about 10-20 % of them also have differing degrees of lactose intolerance.
A study suggests that 24% of patients with lactose intolerance also had celiac disease and it has been recommended that all those who are lactose intolerant should be tested for celiac disease and be placed on a double diet whammy which is free of both gluten and dairy products.
The study has also pointed out that celiac disease damages the villi (the finger-like projections lining the intestinal wall acting as gatekeepers for absorbing nutrients) and also destroys the lactase enzyme contained in the villi.
Intolerance to dairy that stems from celiac damage is known as secondary lactose intolerance, and the good news is that by eliminating gluten from the diet one can heal their gut and become lactose tolerant.
Can I drink milk if I have celiac disease?
While milk is gluten-free, celiac disease can lead to secondary lactose intolerance and thereby avoiding dairy is recommended.
Since celiac disease damages your villi, it can cause lactase deficiency and might make it difficult for you to digest Dairy products.
How does one avoid celiac disease?
There is no way to treat celiac disease, you need to avoid Gluten-containing foods altogether to prevent the symptoms.
Going Gluten-free lets your gut to heal and prevent future inflammation.
Celiac disease is a severe condition damaging and causing inflammation to the small intestines of more than 2.5 million people in the U.S.
Here is a list of what you need to cut down:
Food products such as wheat & wheat flour, rye, barley, malt, semolina, farina, graham flour, and durum
Unexpected foods that contain gluten: canned soups, salad dressings, candy bars, mustard, ketchup, yogurt, pasta, pastries, processed & canned meat, ice cream, instant coffee, etc.
OTC & prescription drugs, vitamins & supplements since they might also contain Gluten as wheat starch might be used as a binding agent in such tablets and capsules.
Nutritional supplements, toothpaste, mouthwash, cosmetic products which might also contain gluten.
A guide to histamine intolerance
Histamines are chemical substances that are released by the cells of one's body in response to an injury, allergy or inflammatory reaction which causes smooth muscles to contract and the capillaries to dilate.
An imbalance of these chemicals and the capacity for its degradation causes Histamine Intolerance.
Histamine intolerance is not sensitivity to histamine but an indication that an individual has developed an excess of it.
Individuals with histamine intolerance might experience symptoms such as diarrhea, headache, rhinoconjunctival symptoms, asthma, hypotension, urticaria, pruritis, flushing, arrhythmia, etc. when they consume histamine-rich foods like alcohol or drugs that release histamines.
What are the symptoms of histamine intolerance?
Common symptoms of histamine intolerance include:
- Headaches or migraines
- Nasal congestion or sinus issues
- Digestive problems
- Irregular menstrual cycle
- Abdominal cramps
- Irregular heart rate
- Tissue swelling
- Difficulty regulating body temperature
Anti-Histamine foods are those that contain vitamin C, quercetin and omega 3 to reduce allergy symptoms.
Here’s a list of such foods:
- Flavonoids like quercetin are natural anti-histamines that prevent the production as well as the release of histamines. Quercitin is present in citrus fruits, broccoli, lettuce, garlic, onions, apples, and tea.
- Hot peppers act as decongestants and reduce nasal allergy symptoms.
- Eucalyptus oil helps the healing of mucous membranes.
- Raw honey can help symptoms of hay fever and histamine allergies.
- Tea: especially Benifuuki (Japanese green tea) is an antioxidant that inhibits mast cell activation and histamine releases and relieves symptoms of runny nose and eye irritation.
Which food is high in histamine?
Foods high in histamines tend to be frozen, aged, highly processed, cured, smoked or fermented.
Some High-histamine foods to avoid, if you are Histamine Intolerant include:
- Canned, dried, and salted seafood like sardines, tuna, mackerel & anchovies.
- Fermented beverages like wine, beer, and champagne
- Aged cheese like parmesan.
- Fermented foods like sauerkraut
- Leftovers, food that requires reheating.
- Aged meats like Salami
Low histamine diet
The food that contains low histamine are:
- Fresh vegetables except for tomatoes and eggplants
- Fresh fruits except for citrus fruits, strawberries, and cherries
- Skinned raw chicken
- Cooked egg yolk
- Fresh or flash-frozen meat and fish
- Cream cheese, butter, new pasteurized milk, and milk products
- Whole-grain noodles, bread, crackers, pasta
- Coconut and rice milk
- Non-citrus based smoothies and juices,
- Herbal teas except for black, green & mate tea
- Leafy greens except for spinach
Here is a low histamine diet plan:
Breakfast: Make smoothies such as mango green smoothie, sweet & savory potato toast, blueberry peach overnight oats, quick granolas, tropical mango overnight oats, quick oat muesli, sweet & savory toast
Morning snack: blueberries, pistachios, brazil nuts, raisins, cottage cheese, cherries, unsweetened shredded coconut, cantaloupe, grapes, Unsweetened applesauce with chia seeds & pistachios
Lunch: turkey meatballs with cherry sauce, steamed broccoli, chicken salad sandwich, celery sticks, grapes, quinoa herb salad, baby carrots, cucumber slices, Fresh salad, asparagus herb cottage cheese tartine.
Afternoon snack: celery sticks, cottage cheese, raisins, chia seeds, apple sprinkled with cinnamon, brazil nuts, baby carrots with no-bean hummus, grapes, cantaloupe, pistachios
Dinner: chicken marinated in apple cider vinegar, asparagus spears, red potato, salads, turkey herb meatballs with cherry sauce, steamed broccoli, salmon tacos, chicken breast topped with mozzarella & basil, zucchini pasta with creamy herb sauce, gyro turkey lettuce wrap, turkey spinach burger
MTHFR and allergies
Individuals with MTHFR gene mutations are likely to have histamine intolerances since the mutation hinders an individual's ability to methylate properly and excess toxins and histamines accumulate in the body.
What are the symptoms associated with MTHFR gene mutations?
Depending on the type of the variant, the symptoms of MTHFR mutations vary from a person to another.
Here is a list of symptoms and medical conditions associated with MTHFR mutation:
- Cardiovascular & thromboembolic diseases
- Bipolar disorder
- Colon Cancer
- Acute leukemia
- Chronic pain
- Nerve pain
- Recurrent miscarriages
- Pregnancies with neural tube defects
What are MTHFR mutations?
Methylene-tetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) is a gene which all of us carry two copies of.
The gene decides how we create an enzyme that is responsible for breaking down the amino acid Homocysteine. The two common variants of the gene are C677T and A1298C.
Individuals with common MTHFR variants have normal or high levels of homocysteine in their blood or urine.
The elevated homocysteine levels are reported to be the risk factors for a variety of health conditions.
Since each of us has two copies of the gene, we can inherit one copy of one variant or both the copies (one from each parent).
People who inherit two copies of the C677T variant are at an elevated risk of having a child with neural tube defects.
What are the recommended supplements for MTHFR mutation?
The severe risks of MTHFR mutations can be managed or prevented via the use of active B vitamins, such as Methylcobalamin, Methylfolate, 5-MTHF, Methyltetrahydrofolates.
Include Vitamin B12 in your diets by adding foods such as eggs, nuts, beans, and yeast.
What are the best vitamins for MTHFR?
The best vitamins that help manage MTHFR mutations better are:
- B Vitamins
- Folic acid
- Metanx (containing active folate, Vitamin B6 and Vitamin B12)
Mast cell disorder and allergy
Mast cell activation disorder causes a part of the innate immune system to overreact and release histamines and other chemicals affecting other organs of the body.
Numerous factors contribute to this, such as the over-production of histamines, Diamine oxidase enzyme deficiency, HMNT mutation, poor methylation in the liver, etc.
MCAD clinically presents itself as a chronic, multisystem pathology of a general allergy and inflammation, associated with obesity, diabetes, skin conditions, IBS, etc.
What is allergic conjunctivitis?
It is commonly called as pink eye.
When an allergy causes inflammation of the membrane covering the white portion of the eye (conjunctiva), allergic conjunctivitis occurs.
There are a variety of allergies, but the common cause is hay fever.
Symptoms: redness, swelling of the conjunctiva, irritation, itching and increased production of tears.
When this occurs alongside rhinitis, it is called allergic rhinoconjunctivitis.
What are the symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis?
The symptoms of conjunctivitis include:
- Itching or burning sensation in one or both the eyes
- Excessive tearing
- gritty feeling in the eyes
- Swollen eyelids
- Discharge from either or both the eyes
- Pink discoloration to the whites of either or both the eyes.
- Higher sensitivity to light
How to cure allergic conjunctivitis?
The appropriate treatment for allergic conjunctivitis involves removing or avoiding the irritant and using cold compresses and artificial tears to relieve discomfort in mild cases.
In case of severity in the condition, NSAIDs and antihistamines might be prescribed. Individuals who suffer from persistent allergic conjunctivitis might also be prescribed topical steroid eye drops.
What is the difference between allergic conjunctivitis and other allergies?
Both conjunctivitis and allergies might give you the same set of symptoms- red eyes and excessive tearing, and thus it is easy to get confused between the two.
But allergies can make your eyes itch and feel sore.
Also, the cause of the two is what tells them apart.
While pink eye is an infection caused by a virus or bacteria, allergies are triggered by various irritants such as pollen or pet dander.
How long does it take to recover from allergic conjunctivitis?
Allergic conjunctivitis can last anywhere between a few days to a few weeks, depending on what caused it.
When caused by a common viral infection without any other complications, it might get cleared up in just a few days or within a couple of weeks.
But if bacteria cause it, even with prescription antibiotic eye drops, it can last up to a month or even slightly longer than that.
What are the causes, symptoms, types, and treatment for skin allergy?
There are several types of skin allergies such as Eczema, Hives, contact dermatitis.
You could get skin rashes due to many reasons including exposure to certain individual plants and allergic reactions to food or medicine, or due to illnesses like measles, chicken pox, etc.
Eczema or atopic dermatitis
It is characterized by dry, irritated and itchy skin.
It affects around 10-20% of children and 1-3% of adults.
In some cases, they might have small, fluid-filled bumps that ooze out a clear or yellowish fluid.
This condition is often reported in people with a family history of allergies.
Treatment includes prescription medications like topical steroids and antihistamines, and milder cases can be treated with just moisturizers and petroleum jelly.
The first FDA approved topical medicine “Crisaborole” is very effective at decreasing inflammation and is well tolerated with long-term use.
Hives or urticaria
It is characterized by red bumps or welts appearing on the skin.
Acute urticaria lasts for around six weeks, and chronic urticaria can persist for more than six weeks.
While the former is commonly caused by being exposed to an allergen or an infection, the cause of the latter is unknown.
Treatment involves antihistamines- either low- sedating or nonsedating types.
Sometimes urticaria might need temporary treatment with prednisone- a corticosteroid medicine, or an immune modulator to reduce the severity.
Epinephrine shots might also help, in the case of anaphylaxis.
It occurs when your skin is exposed to an allergen or an irritant.
Typical symptoms include rashes, blisters, burning, and itching of the skin.
Soaps, laundry detergents, shampoos, fabric softeners, water, metals, adhesives, nail enamels, medications, latex gloves, and certain plants can cause contact dermatitis.
Treating the irritated skin should be prioritized, followed by finding the allergen to avoid future incidents.
Topical creams and oral medications are prescribed to relieve the itching and to heal the damaged skin.
Antihistamines and ointments have also proven to be helpful.
What are the causes, symptoms, and management for dust allergy?
The process of cleaning such as vacuuming, sweeping and dusting can trigger allergic symptoms in some people when they inhale dust that stirs up.
Dust mites are tiny organisms that feed off the house dust and the moisture in the air and are one of the most common allergens.
Symptoms can be present throughout the year.
Apart from allergic rhinitis, it can also trigger asthma and eczema.
Symptoms: sneezing, runny or stuffy nose, coughing, wheezing, tightness in the chest, shortness of breath, itching, etc.
Treatment options include allergy shots, medications, and changes to household routines such as removing curtains and drapes, especially in the bedroom, keeping pets away and minimizing humidity in the house, using mite-proof beddings and washing bed linens using hot water.
What are the causes, symptoms, and management of pollen allergy?
Pollen allergies are caused by exposure to trees, grass and weed pollen.
Pollen is a fine yellowish powder transported via wind, birds, insects, etc. from one plant to another and can cause this seasonal allergy.
Symptoms include runny nose, watery eyes, sneezing, itchy throat, wheezing and nasal congestion.
You could also get asthma symptoms and excessive coughing.
Treatment options include allergy shots and oral medication that should be taken as a preventive measure.
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