Tag Archives: food allergies

The Big 8 Food Allergens (Part 2)


About 15 million Americans have food allergies. Over 90% of all food reactions (nearly 30,000 anaphylactic reactions annually) are caused by 8 specific allergens. This group of highly allergic foods has been dubbed “The Big 8” (if you haven’t caught our post on the first 4, check it out). The Big 8 include: peanuts, tree nuts, dairy, eggs and:

  • Fish – People with fish allergies may be sensitive to all or only a couple types of fish. They are often advised to avoid all fish as a preventative measure. Fish allergies can occur at any age and can be life-threatening. Unfortunately, a fish allergy can be extra dangerous because unlike many foods that only cause a reaction upon contact, if fish is cooking and the allergic person breathes in the fumes, they can have a serious or life-threatening reaction. So not only do people with fish allergies have to avoid eating or touching fish, but sometimes must avoid even being around cooking fish or others who are eating it. Fish ingredients are often hidden in strange foods such as worcestershire sauce, caesar salad and dressing or Clamato drink.
  • Crustacean Shellfish – largely consist of shelled seafood such as shrimp, crab, lobster, prawns and crayfish. Mollusks can cause allergic reactions too but aren’t as common as crustaceans. Similarly to fish, crustacean allergies can be caused by inhalation of the cooking shellfish or cross contamination as well as direct contact or ingestion. They are often caused by a protein called tropomyosin that is found in many shellfish. These reactions could be mild, moderate or deadly and may require the person to carry an EpiPen. While food companies must disclose shellfish ingredients, they don’t have to list a warning about mollusk ingredients like oysters, so read the label carefully for keywords. Shellfish ingredients may be present in such foods as surimi, glucosamine and bouillabaisse, to name a few. It is a good idea to let establishments or planes know in advance about your allergy so they can refrain from serving dishes that contain seafood.
  • Wheat – A wheat allergy is different from celiac disease. Celiac is an autoimmune condition in which the small intestine overreacts to gluten proteins causing many unpleasant gastrointestinal and systemic symptoms. A wheat allergy is an IgE response to wheat causing a range of symptoms from hives, itchy eyes, headaches to anaphylactic symptoms. If you have a wheat allergy it is important to know your labels. There are often hidden wheat ingredients to look for include: “flour,” “wheat germ,” “wheat starch,” “bran,” “modified food starch,” “graham flour,” “farina,” “spelt” and “semolina.”
  • Soy – soy allergies afflict people of all ages and are usually caused by an intolerance to certain proteins in soy. It can be mild to life-threatening, often including such symptoms as gastrointestinal, respiratory, topical or anaphylaxis. Soy is found in a wide range of food products and can be difficult to avoid.

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Gluten Free Options, Products And Info

Only about 1% of the population has celiac disease (a serious autoimmune condition whereby gluten protein causes the body to attack itself) and 0.4% of Americans have a true allergy to wheat. However, a whopping 18 million Americans have a non-specific sensitivity to gluten (usually related to the digestive tract).

GF Controversy

There has been some debate about the recent rise in people opting for Gluten Free (GF) lifestyles. Many people who have no medical issues with the substance have chosen to jump on the GF bandwagon, equating GF with better overall health. This may not necessarily be the case. While some wellness experts assert that limiting gluten consumption is best for everyone, many medical professionals argue that a GF diet can lack fibre and other essential dietary components and simply isn’t necessary unless you’ve been diagnosed with one of the three aforementioned conditions. Controversy aside, people are free to eat what they wish so whether you have celiac, a sensitivity, a wheat allergy or just wish to evade the hotly contended substance, luckily more and more GF products are becoming available.

Types of GF Flour

  • Rice flour has a great consistency that mimics standard flour better than some of the others on the list, but it is not as healthy as quinoa or brown rice flour.
  • Brown rice flour is healthier because it has more fibre than white rice flour and can be used for virtually anything standard flour can be used for.
  • Spelt flour is great for pizza crusts, and can also fully substitute traditional flour in a baking recipe.
  • Quinoa flour is one of the more nutritious options; it has a natural ‘nutty’ flavour and can be completely substituted in baking recipes.
  • Soy flour is especially good for thickening up gravies and other sauces.
  • Coconut flour is high in fibre, protein and low in fat. It also provides a nice taste to baked goods and is a favored GF flour.
  • Almond flour is great for coating meat for frying, also good for about 1/4th of the flour requirement for a baked goods recipe (can be combined with other flours).

* Many of these flours make up great gluten-free pastas as well, such as brown rice (one of our favourites), rice and quinoa!

GF Shopping

There are great gluten free companies out there such as Glutino who make virtually anything you can think of gluten free such as: pizza, hot dog buns, bagels (including whole grain), frozen macaroni and cheese, cinnamon buns, blueberry muffins, cookies, pretzels and the list goes on.

Major Brands With GF Products:

  • Breton’s Crackers
  • Kellogg’s
  • Club House
  • General Mills
  • Dole
  • Snyder’s
  • Maple Leaf

Restaurants That Feature GF Options

You may have to pay a little more for gluten free food items, but most popular restaurants now offer GF menu options. Just a few of the major chains that have recently added GF menus are:

  • Subway
  • Arby’s
  • Austin Grill
  • Pizza Hut
  • Duffy’s
  • Joe’s Crab Shack
  • The Keg
  • Naked Pizza
  • Popeye’s Chicken

The options are boundless and only continuing to grow with so many people going gluten free, which is certainly great for those with allergies and celiac as they have many more product choices now because of such high demand. Thanks for visiting DocChat! If you have any questions about celiac or gluten allergy symptoms, feel free to sign up today and try a videoconference with one of our highly qualified physicians!