Food allergy sufferers may be surprised to learn that because of cross-reactivity, their food allergies may be much more far reaching than initially believed. Read on to learn more about this condition and how to guard against it.
Understanding Food Allergies
Prior to getting a good handle on cross-reactivity in food allergies, a closer look at the nature of a food allergy is in order. The Food Allergy Network defines food allergies as bodily immune reactions to a nutrient input that is mistaken as being injurious. Antibodies are created, and symptoms of the bodily reaction include – but are not limited to – swelling of the mucous membranes, cramping, vomiting, skin rashes, and in extreme circumstances even anaphylaxis resulting in death.
Cross-reactivity pits an antibody against an antigen that structurally mimics a known allergy causer to which the body reacts. It is noteworthy that in the biochemical sense, as defined by Med Terms, this cross reactivity actually refers to the ability of an antibody to recognize similarities in antigens, such as they are present on proteins.
On Cross-Reactivity as it relates to Food Allergies
At first glance this form of cross reactivity is a useful bodily function. Consider that it spurs on the immune system to create antibodies when it detects an antigen that is similar to one determined in the past to be harmful. While for a variety of bodily processes this is a useful response, when it comes to food allergies, it can have devastating consequences.
The body may in the past have identified peanuts as a major antibody generating nutrient, but it may launch the same kind of attack when an unsuspecting consumer ingests something that contains sesame seeds or poppy seeds. These are usually not associated with nut allergies, but can lead an overly intrusive immune system to make that cross-reactivity connection.
What is more, the Surrey Allergy Clinic suggests that it is not only members of the same nutrient family that may present a challenge – in the case of the example it was the peanut and the sesame seed – but also their kissing cousins. With respect to those allergic to peanuts, this might mean a potential for cross reactivity when ingesting legumes, such as lentils, peas or even liquorices.
Preparing for Potential Instances of Food Allergy Cross-Reactivity
At this point in time there is no good way of protecting the body from firing off an ill advised immune response. Guarding against food allergy cross-reactivity is only possible by identifying similar foods which may cause problems. Medicine Net likens this approach to preparing a patient with marked food allergies to shrimp to also assume that s/he will experience allergic reactions to crab. In essence, this patient will do well to avoid all forms of shellfish.
Carrying an EpiPen or Twinject device is the suggestion offered by the Food Allergy Network. Even the most careful food allergy sufferer may end up in a position when cross reactivity is unwittingly triggered by consuming an unrecognized antigen.
A Final Warning
Do not assume to self diagnose food allergies or cross-reactivity. Only a physician can truly help you differentiate between a food allergy, food intolerance, and a food aversion. What is more, only an expert can truly suggest all of the nutrients that may have the potential of triggering a cross reactivity response by your immune system. Consulting with professionals on this issue is paramount and may save your life.
http://www.foodallergy.org; http://www.medterms.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=23370; http://www.allergy-clinic.co.uk/food_allergy_for_doctors.htm; http://www.medicinenet.com/food_allergy/page3.htm; http://www.epipen.com/; http://www.twinject.com/