Why you SHOULDN’T self diagnose food allergies

August 15, 2018

Hello! Welcome to another episode of Emma gets angry at the internet. I promise I’m really not that much of an angry person, but I get SO upset when people spread messages that they shouldn’t, but they don’t know any better.

So yep, today’s food topic is allergies! Bet you all know someone, or yourself have an allergy! Or do you?….

Allergies are quite common, with Allergy UK estimating 4 in 10 of us have some form of allergy in the UK! This doesn’t just include food, but air pollutants, animals and materials too. Prevalence is also rising in western society – we’re not completely sure why, but suggested possibilities could be genetics, our environment and food processing.

And believe it or not, food allergies can be pretty serious. Nausea, vomiting, skin injuries, wheezing, diarrhoea, breathing difficulties… even death. Many allergies are airborne, so being on environments such as planes can be extremely risky for persons with allergies. And there is a serious risk of cross contamination, especially when eating out or consuming takeaway. Another problem is also mental consequences of allergy. With having to be so aware of what you consume, allergy has been linked in some cases to disordered eating, where many patients are scared to eat as a result of their symptoms.

It’s not just the Dietitian in me who’s pretty passionate about dealing with allergies, it’s from a personal point too! I have many many allergies and have adapted my life so much to work around them. I don’t realise how much I have to be careful, but when a new person comes into my life, they’re often shocked how I adapt to environments. And I have loads of different type of allergy too! I have anaphylaxis to nuts (all but one type of nut, but I just completely avoid them), beans and pulses, egg allergy, dust mite allergen, tree pollen allergy (hay fever) and many animal allergies. I also have a severe eczema, which is linked to allergy and also flares up horrendously when I contact any of these things/ I’m stressed / heat changes / different fabrics. It causes me to get hives and infections too. Yeah pretty gross right?

So what treatment do I have? How do I adapt? Well first thing is I always carry around medication: strong cetrizine tablets are a must for me but also I carry TWO epipens. If you have to carry an epipen you must always have two – if you go into anaphylactic shock and the ambulance is taking rather long to arrive then you must administer a second dose of adrenaline to prevent further damage, brain damage or even death. To see how to use an epipen watch this video (it’s so important everybody knows!!!!).

I also have many steroid creams, anti inflammatory creams and cooling gels to help me deal with skin reactions, which in all honesty, happen to me pretty much every day. I also cook with COMPLETE AVOIDANCE to my reactant foods, which means I’m generally a pain at the restaurant and read lots of food labels. But you know, rather have a pain in the arse than a non-breathing diner, right?

My Mom discovered my food allergies as I was growing up: when she weaned me, when I went to school, when I went to parties. She alerted my doctor and we all knew they were pretty severe – I couldn’t even be in the same room as foods without having some type of skin reaction. But unfortunately and DANGEROUSLY for me, my doctor never officially gave me a test. Before university, I needed a repeat prescription on my epipen, but the guest doctor I saw stated there was nothing on my record about allergies. I was horrified!!! If I ever went into hospital and couldn’t communicate, they would never know!! How scary!!!! So I had an IG blood test straight away and was immediately referred to an immunologist (who I still see to this day!)

So why am I telling you all of this? Well hopefully, this has given you into an insight into how serious allergies and intolerances are. But recently, there has been a huge increase in “Home testing kits”, with SO many nutrition, fitness people and celebs endorsing them which has made me SO upset. These tests do NOT accurately find out allergies. I’ve actually sent fairly nice messages to some endorsers telling them they should see their GP but sadly, I’ve always been ignored. The tests look at IgG reactions to foods – this does NOT reflect a food allergy reaction, which is very misleading to those who do not understand the science of allergy.

It has been shown that these tests are a catalysts for eating disorders and malnutrition, with persons cutting out foods and food groups after these tests as they are “intolerant”, which leads to poor diet and a lack of variation. This could be doing more harm than good. And these tests are pretty expensive… as here in the UK, the NHS is free?! If you are embarrassed to talk to your doctor about allergy, then please please don’t! Talk to a friend or a family member as a first line about your concerns, and then go get your medical tests done with a professional SO THEY ARE ON YOUR RECORDS!

Please please, do not rely on one of those tests. Allergy is an extremely dangerous issue and the tests not only swallow your money, but put your health at risk too.

If anyone would like more information, please go to Allergy UK or you can contact me directly (I have lots of experience and also wrote my dissertation on allergy!)

Keep Safe

Emma x

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