Photo: Matthew Mead (AP Images) Earlier this week, we reported on a recent food allergy study that, perhaps unsurprisingly, caused long and intense emotions among readers. The study found that around 10 percent of adult Americans are allergic to foods such as shellfish, nuts and dairy products. But it also turned out that nearly so many people had described themselves as allergic, but then reported symptoms that did not match a real food allergy. Sounds harmless enough, right? Here are some of the answers we received: "As someone who deals with an actual, verbatim food allergy (tree nuts quickly turns me into anaphylaxis), I appreciate an article that illustrates the difference." "For some reason a food allergy now has a desirable feature. Just a checkbox to be different and unique. "In Other News, people want to feel special and compensate for all sorts of confusing states, ruining the business for people who are REALLY allergic. "[S]Sometimes it was just easier to tell someone who made six plates of hors d'oeuvres on egg-based / custard / meringue-flavored treats that I have an allergy. I'm not happy about it, but it's easier and easier for people to understand than to explain how I do not want to spend four hours with sweaty abdominal pain, just to enjoy their devilish eggs. "Yes, I know that I have no allergy, but milk, certain cheeses and cucumbers cause painful cramps, vomiting and other inconveniences. It's a lot easier to just say that I have an allergy than a sensitivity that people just seem picky about. "Readers expressed concern, both by email and in the comments, what they found to be the hidden effects of the study. If there are people who claim that they have food allergy but do not have symptoms that match any of these symptoms, does that mean that they are basically fooling themselves? A minority of readers went further, suggesting that some people are lying about their problems to fit into the latest health trend. This is a common incident among people who say their diets need to be gluten-free, for example. Our original article made sure that people who misdiagnosed an allergy did not fake their problems, but something else might have been food intolerance. But given the intense emotional reactions of readers – both those who believe that their sensitivity to eating is not taken seriously, and those who feel that people with food problems are overly precious – one should investigate why We should not reject people who donate. They have no classical food allergies, but they are in some ways hypersensitive. For one thing, the authors of the study did not try to minimize a person's nutritional problem. "We do not say that people are wrong. One in ten US adults has a food allergy and this is a very important number. Half of these allergies develop in adulthood, which is also very worrying, "said lead author Ruchi Gupta, professor of pediatrics at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University in Chicago, told Gizmodo. "Another 9 percent had very valid food-related conditions that could have been a food allergy, but the symptoms overlapped with other food-related conditions." For example, the survey asked people with a food reaction to list the symptoms of their most severe reaction. The Gupta team classified those who had at least one of several well documented symptoms of food allergy, such as hives or swelling of the oropharynx, as a true allergy. But asking people to remember their past is always a difficult business. Perhaps some people who were not classified as food allergies in the study actually had consistent symptoms, but did not mention them. In addition, scientists are discovering and exploring all sorts of ways in which the body can not respond to food that does not necessarily look like a classic food allergy. For example, people with a rare eosinophilic disease produce more eosinophils, a type of white blood cell, than they actually need. This overproduction can then lead to inflammatory attacks. There are several types of disorder, depending on where the overactive eosinophils are produced. People with eosinophilic gastrointestinal disease, that is, their eosinophils can cause havoc throughout the digestive system, often have food-related triggers. The most common form of this type, eosinophilic esophagitis or EoE, may affect one in 4,000 children. And while many reactions to a trigger feed can occur immediately and do not affect the antibody immunoglobulin E like a typical allergy. Some people may have delayed chronic reactions, such as heartburn, chronic abdominal pain, and a damaged esophagus, where other antibodies are associated with a food allergy, such as Immunoglobulin G, a spokesman for the American Eosinophilic Partnership, who emailed Gizmodo other complicated immune disorders out there, like mast cell disease. As with eosinophilic disease, people with mast cell disease may experience a mix of sudden and delayed responses to food-triggering. Estimates of how many people have mast cell disease are hard to come by, but some forms may affect about one in 10,000 people. People with celiac disease have a delayed immune reaction to gluten. There is also Hashimoto's disease, an autoimmune disease that is gradually damaging the thyroid and affecting 1 to 2 percent of people in the US. Hashimoto's sufferers are particularly sensitive to iodine, which is used to produce thyroid hormones. Therefore, they must carefully monitor their diet to avoid much of it. And of course there are other conditions, such as lactose intolerance, that do not involve the immune system at all. Long and short of all this is that our body is weird and we have little scratched the surface of understanding many ways it can go awry. With that in mind, it's understandable why some people with lactose intolerance may simply call their problem an allergy, a common term everyone understands. In other cases, as some readers have pointed out, people may call their complex sensibility to food an allergy to avoid judgment or curious questions. "We still have family members who ask, 'Well, I can still give them this food, right? "Because they do not see the effects of a trigger," said GM Contreras, founder of a self-help group for families involved with EoE and father of a child with EoE, opposite Gizmodo. "Some children only get hives. Some get abdominal pain. Some die They just never know when and how the effects will come. "Of all eating movements, the gluten-free trend seems to attract attention. The question of whether people can become ill by eating gluten, but do not actually have a wheat allergy or a celiac disease, is always explored. Although we are not quite sure how gluten could make these people sick (or that gluten is the true culprit itself), there are studies that show that some individuals with reported gluten sensitivity actually show signs of internal damage and experience relief cutting wheat and other gluten-rich foods from their diet. But if you decide to refer to a sensitivity as an allergy, if you refuse a dish at a dinner party, or if you suspect that you have a problem but do not know how to classify it, you should find out why it is you can not tolerate a particular food. Finding a doctor who can help you better understand your specific food problem may not be an easy or affordable task, but it's better than a self-diagnosis. That, says Gupta, hopes people will be able to take their research with them: "We wanted to stress how important it is to get a medical diagnosis. So if it is a diet-related disease that is a food allergy. They know how to handle it, as some are treatable and some, such as food allergies, can be life-threatening, "she said. Regardless of whether you are officially diagnosed with an allergy, intolerance or something else. If you avoid certain foods, you will feel better, less sick, or just better. Then that's no shame.



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