Theoretically, any food containing protein can contribute to a food allergy. But the following seven foods account for the vast majority of food allergies.
1. Peanuts. These are the leading cause of severe allergic reactions to food, including food-related anaphylaxis.
2. Seafood. If you have a seafood allergy, the chances are you react to shellfish, generally prawns, crayfish, lobster, or crab. Some people, however, are also allergic to both fresh and saltwater fish. Once you have a seafood allergy, you will probably have it for life.
3. Tree nuts. Almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, and walnuts are included in this category.
4. Eggs. The whites, in particular, cause reactions. More children than adults have an allergy to eggs, and children with atopic dermatitis (dry, scaly, itchy skin) have an increased risk of an allergic response to eggs.
5. Cow’s milk. The principal culprits are the proteins in milk, such as lactoglobulin, lactalbumin, casein, and whey. Milk allergies almost always begin in the first year of life, soon after cow’s milk or cow’s-milk-based formula is introduced to a child’s diet. Between 2 and 7 per cent of infants under one year old suffer from cow’s milk allergy, making it the most common food allergy of childhood.
6. Soy. The prevalence of soy-based formulas and baby foods today is leading to an increase in soy allergies among babies, with gastrointestinal symptoms most common.
7. Wheat. Don’t confuse a wheat allergy with gluten sensitivity. Gluten is the component of wheat, barley, rye, and other grains that provides the ‘glue’ that holds the grain together. It is associated with a disease called gluten-sensitive enteropathy, or celiac disease, caused by an abnormal response to gluten. A wheat allergy, on the other hand, means that you are allergic to certain proteins in wheat. If you eliminate wheat from your diet and your symptoms disappear, you have a wheat allergy; if the problem persists even after you substitute other grains, the chances are your symptoms are related to gluten. Of course, an allergy test is generally the best way to find out what’s plaguing you.