Food Allergy? Here is What You Need to Learn

Allergy or intolerance

Does one of your friends say that you are sensitive to one food and another that you are allergic to food? What is the difference and what do they mean? If you or someone close to you has problems with certain types of foods, there is a whole new world ahead of you. Here are some basic principles.

The Food sensitivity is an umbrella term that includes any adverse reaction potentially caused by food that will hives, an asthmatic reaction, or the urge to vomit at the mere thought of Brussels sprouts. This brings together both food allergies and food intolerances. So, you ask yourself, what is the difference between intolerance and allergy? The answer lies in the immune system.

A food allergy manifests itself when your system reacts to a certain food because it considers it dangerous and must fight it. The first time a person allergic to a food is confronted with the trigger or allergen , his body triggers a defense mechanism and creates antibodies (specialized proteins) called immunoglobulin E(IgE). When the allergen is reintroduced, the body releases these IgE antibodies as well as other chemicals (including histamine) to defend against what is perceived as a threat; this is how the allergic reaction starts. The symptoms of the reaction can vary greatly in severity, ranging from hives or tingling in the mouth to asthma or a life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis , a severe form of allergic reaction.

It is reassuring to know that real food allergies are relatively rare; in Canada, only 3-4% of adults and 6% of children suffer from this problem. As these numbers indicate, children tend to get rid of allergies over time. However, nothing can be presumed, especially for peanut, shrimp or fish allergies. And unfortunately for adults, there is no age where we receive a “carte blanche”, because the allergy can occur at any age.

The food intolerance is a bad reaction to food, but that does not involve the immune system. Intolerance originates most often in the digestive system and is related to the person’s inability to digest or absorb certain foods (or parts of them). As the immune system does not intervene in this area, it usually takes a much greater amount to trigger a reaction, while in the case of an allergy, a tiny amount is sufficient. Symptoms of food intolerance may include flatulence, bloating, vomiting or diarrhea. A well-known food intolerance is lactose intolerance, which is an inability to digest lactose, the type of sugar present in milk.

Food allergens: the main suspects

Are you allergic to food or thinking about it? Health Canada has identified nine food allergens , the foods most commonly associated with allergic reactions. Although you can show food sensitivity to any food, the majority of food allergies involve only a small minority of foods.

Here are the usual suspects:

  • Peanuts,
  • wheat and certain other cereals containing gluten,
  • milk,
  • the corn,
  • nuts (almonds, hazelnuts, cashews, walnuts, brazil nuts, macadamia nuts, pecans, pine nuts and pistachios),
  • eggs,
  • fish and seafood (including shellfish),
  • sesame and sesame seeds,
  • soybeans,
  • sulphites (substances used as food additives, but also present naturally in food and the body).

The foods listed above can trigger a wide range of allergic reactions ranging from a simple urticaria crisis to the extreme situation where the person is unable to breathe. It is possible that these foods appear as other names in the list of ingredients on the packaging of a food product. If you think you have an allergy, talk to your doctor and do not take risks!

Some foods cause me problems. What do I do ?

If you think you are intolerant or allergic to a food, keep it up and stay patient. You may be discouraged by this new, complex world of dietary restrictions, but remember that it brings you closer to better health!

It is very important to talk to your doctor about eating disorders. You will be able to discuss your symptoms, possible triggers, and your family history, and a physical examination may eliminate other causes or illnesses. Your doctor may also refer you to an allergist , a specialist in allergies and immune system disorders. This step is an essential step to diagnose a possible food allergy or intolerance.

Your doctor may ask you to identify the nature of your eating problem:

A diary of your diet, medications and symptoms. This involves keeping an eye on what you eat and drink during meals, but also during your snacks and write it in a newspaper. You will also need to record the medications you are taking and the time you are taking them. Be sure to include in your notes the physical reactions that follow. This can help you and your doctor make links through a detailed and accurate chart. It is also possible that drugs play a role in your symptoms.

A diet of withdrawal. By suppressing for a short period of time (a week or two) certain foods you suspect to be triggers, you and your doctor will be able to monitor your body’s reaction as you gradually re-introduce food into your body. Although this is not a perfectly conclusive evaluation method, it may provide some insight. Of course, in the case of people who think they are suffering from a serious allergy, it is completely imprudent and not advisable to ingest an allergen voluntarily.

A skin test. To help identify the allergen that concerns you, your doctor will scrape the skin of your back or arm with a needle to put a diluted amount of the suspected allergen on the exposed area so he can go under the surface of your skin. If after about 15 minutes a redness or a small swelling appears, the probability that you are allergic to this substance is about 50%. Conversely, if no reaction occurs, the probability of not being allergic to the substance is approximately 90%.

A blood test. A blood sample can be sent to the laboratory for testing. Unfortunately, the results of this type of test are not always conclusive, so be sure to talk to your doctor to understand the results of such tests.

If you are diagnosed with a food allergy, there is still no miracle cure for eliminating the problem. The best way to deal with this problem is to avoid all allergens. This means that you must know how to recognize your “enemy” in order to exclude it from your diet. The other aspect is that you will need to know what foods you can eat and remember them!

For severe allergy that causes you to have an anaphylactic reaction (a form of allergic reaction that can cause death), your doctor may prescribe an injectable medicine called epinephrine, also known as EpiPen ® and Twinject ®.. You will need to keep this medicine at all times because you may not be able to predict or control your exposure to the allergen and if you need it you will need it very quickly. Immediate injection following exposure is vital if you are at risk of anaphylactic shock. If you need to protect yourself with this type of medication, take the time to inform family members, friends, and colleagues about how to administer this medication in case you become incapacitated. to do it yourself.

For mild allergic reactions, tablet antihistamines (eg, diphenhydramine, hydroxyzine, and cetirizine) may help control and reduce your allergic reaction.

Are you discouraged? Do not be, remember that working with your body by bringing the food you want and eliminating the one you do not want will be good for your health. Yes, you will have to adapt your diet, but consider all the food choices that are still available to you. You could even discover new foods that will be part of your favorites!

Read the list of ingredients

What is wheat made in my vegetarian slab? How can corn end up in my cola? You may think you know what you are eating, but read the ingredient label, as you may discover many things. Knowing what you are looking for is also very useful. If you have allergies, knowing how to navigate the list of ingredients is essential. It could even save your life.

Learn to recognize your enemy. As there is no cure for allergies or food intolerances, avoiding the allergen is an essential method. Many of us are fortunate enough not to need to read the ingredients label or worry about the foods we eat. But living with a food allergy requires a real detective talent. Some traps are visible and easy to eliminate like nut butter, if you are allergic to nuts, but in other cases you need to be more vigilant. For example, wheat is often a food used to mimic meat or fish and seafood, and may even be found in ice cream. Soy can end up in peanut butter, canned tuna or certain infant formulas. Make a habit of always checking the list of ingredients and remember that manufacturers can change their food at any time – so do not give up!

The food may be under a known name, but to complicate matters, some ingredients and their products may have different names; they therefore require an even more pointed talent to spot them. Did you know that cornstarch is a very popular sweetener for food manufacturers? And what can it hide under names like salad dressings, frozen pudding, flan, drinks or canned fruit? If corn is not your friend, then you will have to learn to recognize its pseudonyms such as dextrose, corn syrup, maltodextrin or crystalline fructose. Likewise, peanut oil may have various names such as peanut oil, or what is termed artificial nuts may include peanut-based ingredients.

Know where to find the stowaways in your pantry. Finally, as if allergens do not hide under a sufficient number of names, sometimes the ingredients can creep into the manufacture of products. To combat this phenomenon, Health Canada, in conjunction with the Food Inspection Agency, publishes Allergy Alerts to inform Canadians of undeclared ingredients that may be found in the product manufacturing process. Do not let allergens hide on your shelves.

In summary: If you or a family member has a food allergy, talk to your doctor about what to avoid and what to watch for. Your doctor may recommend that you consult a dietitian to make sure that your nutritional needs are met despite the elimination of certain foods from your diet.

Know how to identify pseudonyms

An egg that is not called an egg … can be confusing! Check the different pseudonyms of the most common allergens *.


peanuts, peanut type Valencia, peanut, peanut, peanut, kernels (shelled walnuts), peanut oil, mani, ground nuts, walnuts, mandelona nuts, Nu-Nuts ™ , pistachios


starch, atta, starch wheat, durum wheat, Einkorn wheat, bulgur, bulgur, couscous, durum, engrain, spelled (farro wheat), farina (common wheat semolina), fortified wheat flour / white / complete (from whole wheat), Graham flour, gluten-rich flour, protein-rich flour, wheat germ, gluten, kamut, pepper, seitan, semolina, wheat bran, triticale, Triticum Aestivum


caseinate, ammonium caseinate, calcium caseinate, magnesium caseinate, potassium caseinate, sodium caseinate, casein, hydrolysed casein, whey protein concentrate, sour cream, lactalbumin, lactate, lactoferrin, lactoglobulin, lactose, milk curd, milk powder, Opta ™ , whey, rennet, hydrolysed milk protein, milk solids, modified milk ingredients

alpha maize D-glucose, dextrose, cornstarch, crystalline fructose, glucose, crystalline glucose, lecithin (corn), maltodextrin, glucose syrup, high fructose glucose syrup, dehydrated glucose syrup, corn syrup

nuts (includes almonds, hazelnuts, cashews, walnuts, brazil nuts, macadamia nuts, pecans, pine nuts and pistachios)

calisson, kernels (shelled walnuts), marzipan, cashew nuts, mandelona nuts, Queensland nuts (macadamia), Nu-Nuts ™ , marzipan, pine nut / sprig / pignole


albumin, conalbumin, globulin, lecithin (egg), livetin, lysozyme, meringue, ovalbumin, ovomacroglobulin, ovomucin, ovomucoid, ovotransferrin, ovovitelline, silico-albuminate, Simplesse MD , egg substitutes, vitelline

fish and seafood (includes shellfish)

bass, anchovies, eels, periwinkles, pike, squid, carp, conch, hull, crab, shrimps, walleye (common walleye), crayfish, smelt, swordfish halibut, pollock, herring, lobster, orange roughy, mahi-mahi, mackerel, cod, mussels, clam, char, sea urchin, scallops, octopus, catfish, lean fish, shark, sardine, salmon, redfish, bluefish (fish blue), tilapia (saint-pierre), tuna (yellowfin tuna, albacore [white], bonito), trout, snapper, sailfish (marlin)


flavoring sesame seeds , beni seed, gercelin seed, sesame seed, seeds, beni / gercelin oil, sesame oil, vegetable oil, sesame, sesamole, sesamolin, sesamum indicum , “sim-sim”, tahin tahina, “til”

soy / soy

diglyceride, edamame, textured soy flour, soy cheese, soy sprouts, kinako, kouridofu, lecithin (soy), miso, monoglyceride, natto, okara, soy protein (isolated / concentrated), soy protein textured, vegetable protein, textured vegetable protein, soy, soy, tempeh, tofu, yuba


sulphurous acid, sulphiting agent, calcium bisulphite, potassium bisulphite, sodium bisulphite, sulfur dioxide, E 220, E 221, E 222, E 223, E 224, E 225, E 226, E 227, E 228 (European names) potassium metabisulfite, sodium metabisulfite, calcium sulphite, sodium sulphite