Whether you have a food allergy or intolerance, you need to very careful what you eat. Sometimes you might find the thing you want to avoid is in foods you might not expect. Reading the ingredients of everything you eat can be a pain, but for some, knowing what’s in your food could mean the difference between life and death.
Some people follow a dairy-free diet as they have a dairy allergy, others are lactose intolerant, and others choose to avoid milk and its derivatives (cheese, butter, cream and yoghurt).
If you are not eating dairy, you need to make sure you get enough calcium. Non-dairy sources of calcium can be found in dark leafy greens such as spinach and kale, beans, sesame seeds and fish such as salmon. Some foods such as cereals, soy milk or orange juice also contain added calcium.
You may be surprised at how many foods can contain milk. This varies according across brands but can include:
Coeliac (also known as celiac) disease is not an allergy or intolerance but an autoimmune disorder. People who have this disease need to avoid gluten – a protein found in wheat, barley and rye – as eating this substance causes damage to their small intestine.
Those with non-coeliac gluten sensitivity may have digestive problems if they eat gluten, but these problems do not cause the same type of damage to their gut as those with coeliac disease. Other symptoms include fatigue, gas, bloating and headache.
Wheat allergy is another problem related to gluten. People with a wheat allergy have allergy symptoms immediately or soon after eating wheat and these problems don’t cause long-lasting damage, although like any allergy, the reaction can be severe.
Apart from in pasta, bread and baked goods, gluten is found in many foods, including:
Peanut and tree nut allergies can be mild and involve symptoms such as hives, eczema and vomiting. However, in some cases the reaction is severe and causes anaphylaxis – a life-threatening reaction that can cause the tongue and throat to swell, restricting breathing.
The symptoms of anaphylaxis are:
Nut allergy sufferers often carry around an adrenaline auto-injector with them, as an injection of adrenaline can save the life of someone in anaphylactic shock. If you think someone is going into anaphylactic shock, ask them if they have an auto-injector (which you may have to administrate if they are too unwell) and call an ambulance.
Nuts are often added as an extra ingredient to desserts or dishes, and so avoiding nuts will usually involve having the dish without the nuts, as opposed to adding something else to replace them.
Nuts are a good source of protein and healthy fat, so you may need to up your intake of other sources of protein (e.g. meat, eggs, yoghurt soy and fish), and healthy fats (fish, eggs, avocados, olives, kale and spinach) to compensate.
Those with severe nut allergies should take care when travelling by plane as they may find they experience symptoms if those around them eat nuts. Every airline deals with this differently, but it is a good idea to warn the airline in advance of your nut allergy and ask them to make an announcement to tell other passengers not to eat nuts.