Any reaction to a food that is abnormal is considered an adverse reaction. Adverse reactions are classified either as food intolerance or food allergy.
Food allergy is defined as an over-reaction by the body’s immune system to proteins in foods that are usually safe or harmless. The over-reaction is caused by IgE, the allergy antibody in humans. Your doctor can perform specific testing of your skin to determine any foods to which you might be sensitive. Testing foods can be done to confirm food allergy.
Food intolerance is an abnormal response of the body to an ingested food that is not an allergy. Examples of this are food poisoning and reactions to chemicals in food or drinks such as caffeine.
The most common symptoms of food allergy are hives, rash, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Asthma might be triggered by foods, but this is rare. The most common foods associated with allergic symptoms are:
- Tree nuts (cashews, almonds, filberts, etc.)
Although also rare, food additives (sodium bisulfite, potassium bisulfite, sodium metabisulfite, potassium metabisulfite, and sodium sulfite) can also trigger asthma. These additives are used as preservatives in food processing or preparation, and can be found in the following foods:
- Dried fruits or vegetables
- Potatoes (packaged and some prepared)
- Wine and beer
- Bottled lime or lemon juice
- Shrimp (fresh, frozen, or prepared)
- Pickled foods
Some sources state that other food additives (food colorings or dyes, preservatives such as nitrites and nitrates, and the artificial sweetener aspartame) can also trigger asthma, but there is no scientific evidence that proves this is true.
If you suspect that certain foods might be triggering your asthma, discuss this with your doctor. Allergy skin testing can be done to determine if you are allergic to these foods. Avoiding the food is the best way to prevent asthma reactions. It is important to read food labels. When dining out, ask how foods are prepared.
For more information on food allergies, contact the Food Allergy Network (800.929.4040 or www.foodallergy.org) or Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (800.7.ASTHMA or www.aafa.org)
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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 6/28/2013…#8956