A food allergy is defined as an abnormal immune reaction caused by the ingestion of a food or food additive. The most dramatic form of food allergy reaction occurs within minutes, usually in response to certain foods such as shellfish, peanuts, or strawberries. The effects are similar to those of a bee sting allergy, involving hives, itching, swelling in the throat, and difficulty breathing; this immediate type of allergic reaction can be life-threatening.
Some food allergy-like reactions do not actually involve the immune system. These are termed food sensitivities (or food intolerance). In most cases, the cause of such sensitivities is unknown.
Conventional treatment for immediate-type food allergy reactions includes desensitization (allergy shots), emergency epinephrine (adrenaline) kits for self-injection, and the antihistamine diphenhydramine (Benadryl).
Although it is the most accurate way of determining food allergies, the double-blind food challenge is still mostly used in research. The elimination diet with food challenges (described below) is the most common technique in use.
Principal Proposed Natural Treatments
There are no well-documented natural treatments for food allergies. The most obvious approach would be to remove known allergenic foods from the diet. Some alternative practitioners offer lab tests to identify such allergens. However, as described above, no lab tests have been proven accurate for this purpose.
Other Proposed Treatments for Food Allergies and Sensitivities
Digestive enzymes such as bromelain and other proteolytic enzymes have been proposed as a treatment for food allergies, based on the reasonable idea that digesting offending proteins will reduce allergic reactions to them. However, there is no real evidence as yet that they are effective against food allergies.
- Reviewer: EBSCO CAM Review Board
- Review Date: 07/2012 -
- Update Date: 07/25/2012 -