The renaissance philosopher and political strategist Niccolò Machiavelli is often quoted for his position that -
“There are no permanent friends, nor permanent enemies, only permanent interest.”
Although we may object to the coldness and seeming lack of socially redeeming value in his statement, I would agree whole heartedly when this wisdom is applied to food. Food is not always our friend. Twenty years ago, just about everyone I knew claimed to be allergic to some particular food. I myself went through a period where I could not eat avocado without becoming nauseous.
Most parents didn’t bother consulting their physician about their child’s allergies and you were more likely to see a parody of someone with a food allergy on a sitcom or film than you would in the news.
All that has changed. Food allergies are a major health concern in the American psyche of the 21 century. Each year over 150 people die from allergic reactions and there are 30,000 allergy related emergency room visits. In 2004 the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004 (Public Law 108-282)was passed. Requiring companies to disclose on the label whether the product contains a major food allergen in clear, plain language. Milk , eggs, tree nuts, peanuts, sea food, shellfish, soy, and wheat account for about 90% of all allergic reactions. The most common food allergies in adults are shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts and egg. The most common food allergies in children are milk, eggs, peanuts, and tree nuts.
Unlike environmental allergens, most food allergies can’t be cured. If you have a food allergy you must strictly avoid the food allergen, recognize any reactions your body has to the allergen and manage them quickly as possible to prevent serious consequences.
For some people hypersensitive reactions can be triggered by exposures to allergens though skin contact, inhalation, kissing, participation in sports, blood transfusions, cosmetics, and alcohol. Fortunately, most children tend to lose their sensitivity to food allergens as they get older.
If you suspect you are suffering from a food allergy you may be able to zero in on the foods causing the problem by:
- Eliminate the possible suspect foods, beginning with the eight listed above, for at least ten days. Eat only the least allergenic foods, such as: fresh fruits (except berries and citrus), avocados, rice, barley, millet, poultry, and lamb. All the foods, if possible, should be organic and free of additives, dyes, and colorings.
- Reintroduce one new food each week to see if symptoms reappear. If this process does not reveal the problem food, there is blood and skin test your physician can administer to determine the allergen causing the reaction.
Food allergens are the modern-day biological equivalent of the “taboo foods” avoided by our ancestors to guard against spiritual contamination.
We would all do well in today’s market of chemicalized, genetically modified experiments masquerading as food, to put to use the simple “elimination diet” outlined above.
I suspect in the years ahead, the number of “common food allergens” will increase significantly. Now is the time to get in touch with your bodies survival instinct. Learn to listen to and trust your bodies distress signals. When in doubt, do without. Eat locally and organically whenever possible.