Your Patient Guide to Navigating Food Allergies
Between hidden ingredients, social pressures, and your body’s nutritional needs, food allergies can be especially difficult to accommodate. If you or your child have been diagnosed with a food allergy, here are some essential tips for staying safe.
In a previous blog, we reported the exciting news that the FDA has approved Palforzia, the first oral immunotherapy treatment for patients with peanut allergies. However, Palforzia is not a cure, and it remains important to continue the conversation around how to stay safe while living with a food allergy.
If you or your child have been diagnosed with a food allergy, here are some essential tips for keeping yourself and your loved ones safe:
Pay Attention to Labels
Grocery shopping around a food allergy can pose some difficulties to those who have just been diagnosed. When some of the most common (and dangerous) food allergies we see include peanuts, milk, soy, shellfish, fish, nuts, and eggs, it becomes extremely important to check the labels on food before you buy, as these allergens can all appear slyly as unexpected ingredients. We advise our patients to check the label every time they buy a new food product in order to avoid accidental exposure. To learn how the FDA is required to inform consumers of allergens in food products and what to look for when reading labels, read this helpful guide from the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.
Take Responsibility for Meals
The best way to avoid accidental exposure to a food allergen is to take control of your meal prep, whether for your own allergy or your child’s. This may require you to have a few more tricks up your sleeve than the average cook, including a list of substitutes that accommodate the allergies in your household. Luckily, we live in an age of endless new options for those with dietary restrictions to enjoy both cooking and eating foods that are safe. You may also consider meal planning to help you maintain your allergen-free diet without any last-minute stress.
Advocate for Your Needs
While taking personal responsibility for you or your child’s meals can help clear allergens from your diet, there are some situations in which having food provided to you is unavoidable. When these situations arise, remember that it is never rude or inappropriate to advocate for your health and alert your host to your dietary restrictions. If you are attending a catered event, the sooner you communicate your needs with the host the better, as all catering staff must legally have protocols in the case of a food allergy. If you are a parent of a child with an allergy, be sure to stress the importance (and appropriateness) of saying “no” to food offered at school or by friends!
See a Nutritionist
Even with all of the motivation, discipline and tools in your belt to maintain an allergen-free diet, it can be difficult to keep yourself safe from exposure while also getting a balanced nutritional intake each day – not to mention enjoying the food you eat! We strongly recommend that those with food allergies consult a licensed dietitian to optimize their diet and develop a plan that accounts for total wellness, not just avoiding allergic reactions.
If you or your child has been recently diagnosed with a food allergy, or if you simply need guidance in navigating your dietary restrictions, Dr. Prema Ganganna at The Allergy and Asthma Center can help. Dr. Ganganna is a licensed dietitian who will work with you to develop a dietary wellness plan that meets your individual needs.
If you’re ready to begin, schedule an appointment today.