Proper prevention and management of an allergic reaction to food really takes a village. An allergen-free diet and resources to navigate dining out with food allergies, like Allergy Eats, can provide helpful guides for how to treat food allergies.
From food to avoid allergies to the best meal delivery for food allergies, this article covers all things about an allergy diet. Learn the best tips for preventing and managing allergic reactions to food.
Can Food Allergies Go Away?
Does food exposure in childhood help in lowering food allergy risk? Recent research indicates that "desensitizing" children to food allergies may be a possibility. Studies seem promising, considering even those with severe reactions have seen a difference.
When Do Food Allergies Develop?
In infants, exclusively breastfeeding early in life may improve food allergy symptoms. For the first three to four months, exclusive breastfeeding can decrease the incidence of atopic dermatitis and wheezing when compared to feeding infant cow's milk-based formula.
Hydrolyzed infant formulas may also be helpful for reducing food allergy risk. These formulas have broken down proteins already into smaller parts. This option is recommended for those who are not exclusively breastfeeding or are not able to exclusively breastfeed.
The following occurrences do not appear, according to studies, to decrease allergy risk:
• Mothers avoiding specific foods during pregnancy
• Soy-based infant formula
• Delaying the introduction of solid foods beyond 4-6 months of age
• Delaying introduction of potentially allergenic foods
In fact, delaying the introduction of potential food allergens may actually increase the risk of a food allergy. Devoting special attention to feeding practices in the early years can prove helpful over time. For example, if a biological parent or sibling has been diagnosed with a food allergy, the risk of developing food allergies may be more likely.
The tendency for food allergies is often hereditary, which means it may be passed from parents to children. People do not generally inherit the allergy. Instead, they inherit the likelihood of having the allergy. Some children have allergies even if no family members are allergic, so regardless of familial allergies it is important to pay attention to feeding practices.
When Do Food Allergies Go Away?
There are two factors that are most telling of when food allergies can go away:
1. Age of onset
2. Type of allergy
Certain allergies are more likely to be outgrown than others. A child may outgrow allergies to milk, egg, soy, or wheat, however, allergies to peanuts, tree nuts, fish, and shellfish tend to be lifelong.
Another trend observed by researchers is that children can outgrow food allergies by the time they become preschoolers. On the other hand, cases diagnosed in adulthood tend to be persistent.
How to Eat Allergen-Free
People with a food allergy should avoid the food that makes them ill. In fact, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, "The only way to prevent a food allergy reaction is to completely avoid the food and any product that may contain it as an ingredient."
How To Make Home Allergen Free
Speaking directly with the people preparing the food can better inform them of allergens, risks, and related concerns. Sometimes friends, family, caregivers, or teachers may not understand how serious a food allergy can be. It is important to ensure that those involved in the preparation know that even small amounts of an allergen can cause problems.
Many experts recommend the "triple-check" method:
1. Check the item at the store
2. Check the food before it is put away at home
3. Check the item before it is consumed
Do not be afraid to ask the manufacturer! Those who process and package a product can change ingredients without making the consumer aware. Know it is okay to reach out and ask the manufacturer about ingredients or risk of cross-contamination, and many manufacturers are more than happy to clarify uncertainty.
When navigating a menu, finding food items with allergen ingredients can seem like a challenge. Some foods that do not typically cause an allergic reaction can become dangerous through cross-contact. This may happen if a non-allergen food is prepared on the same surface or with the same utensils as another food that is an allergen.
Allergy Eats is an easy and accessible guide for finding allergy-friendly restaurants across the United States. It can make life much easier by providing allergen info instantly.
How To Avoid Food Allergy Attacks
Two major methods are helpful for mitigating an allergy attack:
1. Be involved by facilitating introductions with healthcare or support teams. Volunteer during community or classroom events that involve food so that a trusted family member or friend is accessible in case of an allergy attack.
2. Involve everyone in the emergency plan. For example, a child, as well as their guardians away from home (i.e. a teacher at school), should be capable of accessing epinephrine auto-injectors or emergency healthcare if necessary. In most cases "sharing is caring," but children with food allergies should follow the rule of "no sharing food, no exceptions."
These two main tips help to stop an allergy attack before it begins. There are many other methods for teaching children and adults about safe and healthful eating. It may be beneficial to invite a dietitian or allergy expert to the workplace or classroom to share memorable tips regarding allergen management.
Some additional tips for avoiding food allergies or cross-contamination include:
• Pack backup foods
• Read restaurant websites
• Look up nearby grocery stores
• Experiment with alternative ingredients and recipes as a family
• Find age-appropriate ways to teach and discuss allergy management
• Invest in social and mental health support for the whole family
What Is An Allergen-Free Diet?
An allergen-free diet, also called an elimination diet, is considered the gold standard for identifying intolerances to food. Generally, a food or group of foods (i.e. milk or dairy products) is removed for two weeks and symptoms are observed. A registered dietitian and allergist then assist in ruling out foods that are not well-tolerated.
Allergen Free Meal Plan
An elimination diet is not intended for long-term or unsupervised use. Allergies should not be self-diagnosed and any meal plan should account for balanced, nutrient-rich sources of food. This is especially important for children since they are still growing and developing.
Meeting with a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) may help in the process of understanding which foods and beverages are safe for consumption. They are credible professionals to consult about ingredients and can offer tips for reading labels more carefully.
Safe sources of nutrients can help a restricted diet feel less restrictive and more liberating. Dietitians can help suggest acceptable food substitutes that also compensate in terms of nutrition.
Allergen Free Meal Delivery
Allergen-free meals, allergen-free recipes, and allergen-free snacks are all possible through an allergen-free meal delivery plan. Most meal delivery programs have a customer service team that would be happy to cater to your needs.
Federal regulations require that allergenic materials be clearly declared. So, it is always important to double-check the ingredients list of an item before purchasing or consuming.
The Bottom Line on Allergen Management
Food allergens can cause a scary situation for those who do not know how to properly prevent or manage an allergy attack. Helpful resources and guidance regarding an allergen-free diet can assist in making healthy eating feel less restrictive.
Dietitians, parents, teachers, and communities all play a vital role in providing safe and effective allergy management.
Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Is Your Food-Allergic Child's Diet Nutritionally Balanced? Kids with Food Allergies. https://www.kidswithfoodallergies.org/is-your-food-allergic-childs-diet-nutritionally-balanced.aspx.
Ellis E. Food Allergies and Intolerances. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Published May 7, 2020. https://www.eatright.org/health/allergies-and-intolerances/food-allergies/food-allergies-and-intolerances.
Hayes D, Jesus D. Reducing the Risk of Food Allergies. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. https://www.eatright.org/health/allergies-and-intolerances/food-allergies/reducing-the-risk-of-food-allergies.
Kleiner R. 5 Ways Parents Can Keep Food-Allergic Children Safe at School. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Published November 15, 2018. https://www.eatright.org/health/allergies-and-intolerances/food-allergies/5-ways-parents-can-keep-food-allergic-children-safe-at-school.
New Life Nutrition. Can Food Allergies Go Away? Newlife Nutrition. Published 2016. https://www.newlifenutrition.com.au/food-intolerances-and-allergies/can-food-allergies-go-away/.
Raman R. How to Do an Elimination Diet and Why. Healthline. Published July 2, 2017. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/elimination-diet#:~:text=Elimination%20diets%20are%20the%20gold,time%20while%20testing%20for%20symptoms.
Smallwood JC. All About Allergies. Kids Health. Published October 2016. https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/allergy.html.