Stephen J. Schueler, M.D.

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Allergy to Food Underlying Cause

Allergic reactions occur when the immune system overreacts to a substance that should be harmless to the body. The immune system is made up of special cells, called white blood cells, which fight infection. An antigen is a protein that stimulates a reaction from the immune system. An allergen is a special type of antigen that should be harmless to the body; however, the immune system overreacts to the allergen, causing an allergic reaction.

When an allergen is present in the body, white blood cells recognize the allergen, and release chemicals into the bloodstream. These chemicals affect the skin, throat, lungs and intestines, causing the symptoms of an allergic reaction. A food allergy may occur after eating a very small amount of the food that causes the reaction.

Milk and eggs are the most allergies seen in children, but 8 out of 10 children will outgrow them. Peanuts, tree nuts, and shellfish allergies often last a lifetime.

The most common causes for food allergies include:

  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Milk
  • Peanuts
  • Shellfish
  • Soy
  • Sulfites
  • Tree nuts
  • Wheat

Last Updated: Dec 6, 2010 References
Authors: Stephen J. Schueler, MD; John H. Beckett, MD; D. Scott Gettings, MD
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PubMed Allergy to Food References
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  2. Lea R, Whorwell PJ. The role of food intolerance in irritable bowel syndrome. Gastroenterol Clin North Am. 2005 Jun;34(2):247-55. [15862933]
  3. McGough N, Cummings JH. Coeliac disease: a diverse clinical syndrome caused by intolerance of wheat, barley and rye. Proc Nutr Soc. 2005 Nov;64(4):434-50. [16313685]
  4. Montalto M, Curigliano V, Santoro L, Vastola M, Cammarota G, Manna R, Gasbarrini A, Gasbarrini G. Management and treatment of lactose malabsorption. World J Gastroenterol. 2006 Jan 14;12(2):187-91. [16482616]
  5. Osborn DA, Sinn J. Soy formula for prevention of allergy and food intolerance in infants. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2004;(3):CD003741. [15266499]
  6. Patole S. Strategies for prevention of feed intolerance in preterm neonates: a systematic review. J Matern Fetal Neonatal Med. 2005 Jul;18(1):67-76. [16105795]
  7. Shuttleworth A. Food allergies, food intolerance and food-related anaphylaxis. Nurs Times. 2004 Jan 27-Feb 2;100(4):32-3. [14974260]
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