We know that people with food allergies can become sensitized to their food allergen to such a degree that they can no longer even be around the smell of the food, or touch it, as for example with peanuts. What about the reverse? What if you have a contact allergy, preventing you from being around a chemical or other allergen, and that allergen is also present in food products? Should you avoid eating your allergen? Every allergen and the symptoms and methods of exposure are different, but here are five reasons why you might want to stop eating your allergen(s):
- Eating your allergens can sensitize you further to your allergen or to other allergens. People with contact allergies have learned that continuing exposure to an allergen can cause worsening of symptoms due to continuing inflammation and increased sensitivity to small exposures. Avoiding an allergen, by comparison, often tends to lead to increased resilience against small allergen exposures. Eating your contact allergens is a continuing exposure concern than can slow healing from reactions and cause continuing symptoms even after all traces of the allergen are removed from points of contact. The continuing inflammation can also cause increased reaction to your allergen or cause the body to start reacting to more allergens.
- Eating your allergens can cause both internal and external symptoms. You would think that external exposures would lead to external (skin, eyes, sinus, etc.) reactions and internal exposures could cause internal (digestive, etc.) reactions, but the mechanism of allergic reactions is much more complex than that. Ingesting an allergen can lead to stomach upset, throat reactions, sinus problems, skin issues, eye swelling, kidney function upset, and more, depending on the allergen and your sensitivity to it. You may not even notice or recognize all of the symptoms you were experiencing until you are no longer exposed.
- Eating your allergen can cause your digestive system to reject the foods in which the allergen was cooked. This can present itself by the passing of only partially digested foods within about 24 to 36 hours of eating the contaminated food. Aside from the unpleasant consequence of increased gas and bloating, if your body is working to get the food through you as quickly as possible and not digesting it properly, your body is not getting all of the nutrients it can out of the food and you could end up nutrient-deficient. This can cause a desire to eat much larger portions and result in weight gain or loss.
- Making appropriate food choices to avoid chemical allergens in food can lead to decreased chemical exposure through foods. This applies not just to a specific allergen, but to a lowered chemical load in general. For many who are living with chemical contact allergies, this drop in all chemical exposures is a welcome comfort, if not a direct health benefit.
- Your eating habits and genetics are shared with your children. While there are no definitive studies connecting allergies to heredity, there is anecdotal evidence of parents and children sharing similar susceptibility to allergies. This means that your children may have an increased risk of developing allergies if you yourself have allergies. In addition, family eating habits are shared with children, learned, and often carry through well into adulthood. The foods to which we become accustomed as children are the ones that we continue to eat as adults. Susceptibility to allergies could be at least partially hereditary, but environmental factors can reduce the likelihood of allergies manifesting, and healthy eating habits are environmental benefits to living with someone who needs to avoid chemicals. We should be wary of encouraging children to watch their diet closely, as that can lead to unhealthy mental habits regarding food later in life, but eating safer (less chemical-laden) foods on a regular basis as a part of normal family meals will expose your children to a healthier way of living.
Have you stopped eating a contact allergen? Did you notice any change in your allergy symptoms? Comment below.