Do You or Don’t You Have a Food Allergy?


If you asked my husband, Bill, that question, he’d say, “You’re damned right I do.” He’s been tested and–in fact–has three signficant food allergies: wheat, corn, and dairy (cow). I’m a witness and I believe him. Feed him irresistable baguette made fresh by a New York City bakery and watch his head stuff up. Eyes water. Nose runs. But that’s not the worst. Sneak a little dairy into those mashed potatoes at dinner and he’ll have cramps in his gut all night long. And corn? It’s a combination of the two, affecting both the digestive system and the head. I know it’s real.

The New York Times, however, cites a research study by the National Institute of  Allergy and Infectious Diseases that claims many people don’t actually have food allergies even though they think they do.

According to The Times, “people are focused on allergies, in part, because testing for ImmunoglobinE, or IgE, an antibody associated with allergies, has become so easy….Often a test will come back positive for IgE. But these antibodies can appear and disappear with no consequences; no one knows why. So the presence of IgE antibodies does not necessarily mean that the patient has an allergy.”

“If I get something that reminds me of an allergic reaction or reminds my health care provider of an allergic reaction it seems like a logical and straightforward connection to attribute it to food,” says Barry Glassner, a sociology professor at the University of Southern California and the author of The Gospel of Food: Why We Should Stop Worrying and Enjoy What We Eat.

We often avoid the food that reminds me of the one we’re allergic to. The word “allergy,” Dr. Glassner said, has come to connote any unpleasant experience with food. But unlike true allergies, which can kill, food intolerances are just uncomfortable.

So what may seem like a food allergy may actually be an intolerance.

Does that change the way you eat? It sounds like an interesting experiment.

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