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Nutrichondriac – Self-Diagnosing Food Allergies When None Exist

Updated on June 4, 2018
RJ Schwartz profile image

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What Are Food Allergies

A food allergy is an abnormal response to a certain food or ingredient by the immune system. The reaction can range from mild to life-threatening, depending on the severity of the allergy. The most commonly known symptoms from an allergic reaction caused by food are itching & swelling, often inside or around the mouth, and hives or other observable changes to the surface of the skin. In severe cases additional symptoms of difficulty breathing due to throat constriction, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps and a change in blood pressure may be observed.

Foods that are most commonly associated with allergic reactions are, in no specific order, peanuts or peanut-based products, shellfish, tree nuts such as walnuts or pecans, eggs, milk and dairy products containing lactose, soy, and wheat. In cases where a known allergy exists, avoid the food totally is the recommended action. In some cases, severe allergic reactions can cause permanent damage and even death; it’s recommended that anyone with severe allergies wear a medic alert bracelet and carry an adrenaline pen. This severe reaction is called anaphylaxis, and unlike contact allergies, it spreads throughout the entire body through the bloodstream. Adrenalin is used because it can quickly reduce swelling and stabilize blood pressure until medical help arrives.

Testing and Identifying Legitimate Food Allergies

Food allergies are often identified in early childhood, and much of the testing is performed on younger children. Because the environment we live in changes so often, it’s not uncommon for additional allergies to be diagnosed later in life. Testing is simple and the results are usually known before an individual leaves the doctor’s office. Many patients learn what to avoid after a single visit and their overall quality of life improves rapidly with proper identification and treatment of their diagnosed allergies.

Food allergy testing is primarily done through a skin test at a medical practitioner’s office. In addition to testing for food issues, this procedure can by use to test for allergies to certain medications, environmental contact allergies such as hay fever or other airborne pollen, latex, and even bee pollen. The testing is considered slightly invasive and can be conducted rather quickly (usually less than 1 hour).

A skin prick, also known as a skin puncture test is used to check for up to 40 different allergies at the same time. In this test, a tiny amount of the substance is injected into the surface layer of the skin using a lancelet. After 10-20 minutes, the sites are examined for signs of a reaction. Raised, bumpy, or redness are all indicators that an allergy is present; determining the severity of the allergy may require additional testing. It’s not a foolproof test, but is relied upon by the health-care community as a guideline for early treatment.

Self-Diagnoses Using Questionable Methodology

Despite the ease of the testing procedure, many people would rather instead rely on inconclusive studies, theories, and junk science, to diagnose themselves. This alarming trend has led nutritionists to coin a new term to describe the action of avoiding certain classes of foods because they think they are intolerant to them; it’s known as nutrichondria. The most common classes of foods that are included in this new thought process, are gluten and dairy. Another dynamic of this avoidance philosophy is connected to weight loss and perceived nutritional benefits associated with eliminating certain foods from your diet. A recent study by wellness genetics company DNA Fit found that nearly half the adults surveyed had self-diagnosed themselves as being gluten intolerant when only 15% of them were actually confirmed by proper testing. Additionally the same study revealed that 33% of test subjects diagnosed themselves as lactose intolerant.

Basing dietary choices on sketchy theories, especially ones promoted by celebrities or other notable individuals could be doing more harm than good. It’s really no different than using the internet to self-diagnose an illness or malady. Using trending stories or searching for information on websites that aren’t focused on actual medical information, will only provide limited facts, or in some cases, no facts at all. Common sense would say that if someone is trying to sell a supplement or product to “help” alleviate symptoms of something, then it should be taken with a high degree of skepticism. Fad diets have been around for as long a food has, or so it seems. History shows us that is most cases, they were nothing other than their names revel; fads. Impressionable people are likely to get caught in the trap and end up possibly avoiding bread or milk for years because of something they read on their favorite actresses’ blog.

Buyer Beware - Home Testing Kits

Also, there is a growing industry for home-based testing products, which again should be taken with a high degree of skepticism. Some of the tests rely on a blood test, while others are based on seemingly unconnected methods. One test uses hair another relies on grip strength, and still another measures electrical resistance when a person holds certain types of foods in their hands. Hair follicles have nothing to do with allergies. Electrical energy cannot determine food allergies and grip strength may be a great thing to understand, but it too is meaningless in checking for food allergies. Many of the companies which provide these tests are only after a quick financial gain and are not sanctioned by any medical governing body.

Conclusion

Because of the appeal of taking advice from our favorite celebrity, many people are not getting the correct level of nutrition. They are eliminating items like milk and bread, but aren’t replacing the vitamins, calcium, protein, and other essential nutrients found in these foods. What’s even more concerning is that these unproved methods are also being used by parents to dictate what their children are consuming. This irresponsible behavior is leading to malnutrition in situations where it shouldn’t happen. Proper diet is the most important thing in a child’s life and incorrect assumptions based on internet research or mail-in testing shouldn’t be a deciding factor in any case. Even though allergies are on the rise globally, they haven’t risen to the level that these behaviors seem to indicate. Before taking action on any diet or nutritional program that wasn’t prescribed by a medical professional, take time to evaluate the “bigger picture” and determine how the changes could impact your health.

© 2018 Ralph Schwartz

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  • fpherj48 profile image

    Paula 

    18 months ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

    I'm happy to say, I have no "food" allergies. This is a very good thing. because my entire family is big on FOOD & Beverage. We eat when we celebrate, mourn, get together, miss each other, have a baby, fight and/or make up.....My grandmother and mother were superb cooks (Italian) my sister was an excellent cook and I'm not bad myself!

    The only side effect happens when we overeat......and we often do.....so we gain a few extra pounds. Since I adamantly refuse to ever diet, I simply add minutes onto my elliptical routine. I say YES to dessert and add 10 minutes. This is the only way I have avoided weighing 200 pounds!! This may sound like common sense. That's because it IS.

    I'm allergic to some medications and to bee stings. I am deathly allergic to alcoholics/drunks and simply avoid them......or as is one case, divorced him.

    I accept that some people have genuine allergies to many various things. We all have something we must deal with. LIFE, in general can pose a health threat if we're not on our toes!!!

    GREAT article Ralph. Thanks for the info! Paula

  • MizBejabbers profile image

    Doris James MizBejabbers 

    18 months ago from Beautiful South

    I find your article very interesting because a lot of people really are jumping on the food-fad bandwagon. But I have to tell you that I've had the opposite experience. I'd lived in denial that I had food allergies although my husband kept telling me that he saw reactions after I'd eaten certain foods like green salads and bread. I just didn't want to give them up.

    Anyway, I had allergy tests about 30 years ago and the doctor gave me a food elimination diet to go on. The problem with the "hypoallergenic diet" was before the day was over, my stomach was upset, I had a migraine and my BP had skyrocketed. My husband was frightened and said he didn't know what to do to help. I asked him to go to my favorite fast food restaurant and get me a baked potato and a milkshake ( 2 foods not on the diet). After I ate those everything calmed down, including the BP, so my conclusion was that I was not allergic to dairy as the doctor had suspected. However, years later a doctor took me off dairy for several months because of a fungal infection. Later my first glass of milk threw me into an asthma attack, and I don't have ordinary asthma. I have a physical reaction to dairy but it isn't lactose. I still get a lung shutdown and muscle aches from lactose-free milk but no stomach problems. Also bad reactions to wheat and other glutens.

    Fast forward to last spring and I had more allergy tests with the same results to environmental allergies. The doctor said that they did not do food allergy tests in Arkansas (the reason for the food elimination diet years ago, I guess.) I said that I'd already proved a sensitivity to glutens, dairy, and chlorophyl. My son had all those test run in Texas, and he tested out positive for Celiac, dairy, corn, chlorophyl, etc. His only surprise was the allergy to corn.

    My mother had a very obvious sensitivity to glutens but she refused to give up her biscuits and other wheat items. I can't imagine giving up all that good-tasting food just for a fad either.

    I think my point here is that sometimes we have to self diagnose when testing is not available.

  • profile image

    RTalloni 

    18 months ago

    Good food for thought here. It is important to know what is actually going on, but docs aren't always helpful, leaving people to self-diagnose more often than is admitted in the profession.

  • manatita44 profile image

    manatita44 

    18 months ago from london

    The mind set has gone that way. After all, many problems spring from unhealthy thoughts or ways. Peace Bro

  • RJ Schwartz profile imageAUTHOR

    Ralph Schwartz 

    18 months ago from Idaho Falls, Idaho

    I had someone tell me the other day that they were allergic to sugar. I'm not sure if that's even possible for someone and still be alive. When I posted this article on Facebook, I had many people who said they were allergic to this or that and intolerant to this or that - seems as if regardless of the obvious facts that many people are more comfortable using their own methods for self-diagnosis. I can respect their individualism but I can't understand why they'd take that route. There's too much delicious food out there to miss out on.

  • manatita44 profile image

    manatita44 

    18 months ago from london

    Well written, well rounded, very sensible read about dietary and nutitional information as a whole. Lets hope we all chose well.

  • breakfastpop profile image

    breakfastpop 

    18 months ago

    Very wise advice for everyone. My aunt was the queen of fake allergies. She swore she couldn't even be in the same room as an orange!

  • lambservant profile image

    Lori Colbo 

    18 months ago from Pacific Northwest

    AMEN! I get so annoyed at the whole "nutrition" and "allergy and intolerance" trends. You are so right how people self diagnose. Of course some people have been able to identify allergies and intolerances through blatant, undeniable reactions. I've never been allergy tested, but I become very I'll when I eat almonds or almond products so it's a no brainier. But these trends such as gluten intolerance have become the demon of the day. For some I'm sure it's an issue but it's not the magic people make it out to be. The whole Apple cider vinegar health claims are ridiculous. Proponents have huge long lists of diseases and conditions it cures and I have yet to meet one person using it to stick with it because it doesn't do all the things "experts" say it will. Myself included.

    Another ridiculous thing that has gone on for decades is the "newest" research which says product A has all these nutrious benefits (and weight loss). A few years down the line we are told the latest research says product A is bad for you. I can't believe the amount of money some people buy for formulas and a bazillion supplements. Many vitamins an supplements are good of course. I take a few, but I've seen people take like 20 or more supplements and they're no more or less healtbier. than others. People like miracle products but they come and go. My thought is eat a basic sensible life diet of fruits and veggies, etc and cut out the junk food and you'll feel better. Don't even get me started on diet trends. I recently lost weight without trying just by eating healthy and cutting out sugar and junk food. Great article Ralph.

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