Food allergies! Oh no!
April 12, 2011 9:13 AM   Subscribe

How easy is it to diagnose food allergies? YANMD, etc.

Greetings friends,

I think I may have a food allergy. Do any of you have experience with having a food allergy diagnosed, and if so, how easy is it? Is the only way to diagnose to simply not eat a particular food and see if the symptoms go away?

In this case, I've had chronic congestion, wheezing, and sinus drip for a ridiculously long time now, if that matters. There hasn't been anything severe like hives or anaphylaxis or anything, but it still kind of sucks. Thanks.
posted by elder18 to Health & Fitness (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
That's one way to diagnose, yes. Usually it should be done under the supervision of a doctor or allergist, who has other tools and techniques at their disposal also.

FWIW, though, it's very rare for a food allergy to manifest as rhinitis (like you're describing) -- gastrointestinal symptoms or skin symptoms are the most common types. Do you have some other reason to think these symptoms are food related?
posted by brainmouse at 9:19 AM on April 12, 2011

It could be that easy. For me, the correlation between my first sip of a beer and the complete shutdown of my sinuses - tested repeatedly - was enough for me to say, yeah, no more beer and probably time to start using discretion with wheat in general. If not eating/drinking that thing makes the symptoms go have your answer. You can always formalize it later with an allergist.

Obviously, it could be a lot more complicated than the simplest answer. I know someone who's allergic to barley, but originally came to the same conclusion I did about beer and wheat. There's definitely nothing wrong with cutting the major culprits out via elimination diet, logging the results, and then taking that data in to a doctor to fine-tune.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:37 AM on April 12, 2011

You can get tested at an allergist for food allergies. I tested mildly to moderately allergic to many, many foods when I was a kid.

In high school, after a couple days of missing school because my eyes had swollen shut, my parents took me to an allergist where I got tested. I remember the doctor gave us a sheet of paper to put on the refrigerator that listed everything I was allergic to, from chocolate and strawberries (the cause of the swelling) to things like bread (I've never noticed any reaction to bread at all) and alcohol (which I'd never had at the time).

I've mostly outgrown them, but I still get rhinitis from alcohol and sometimes mildly from chicken. I guess it may be rare, but there is no question that after a beer or two, I'll be wheezing and a bit congested. After I get drunk, I'll sometimes have what seemed like a cold for days.
posted by Tooty McTootsalot at 9:38 AM on April 12, 2011

Our pediatrician said an elimination diet is often the best way to test for food allergies especially considering the treatment would be the same as if you tested blood or skin (treatment = don't eat that food). Do some google research and you'll find the top food allergies and can craft an elimination diet based on that (unless you already suspect a certain food).
posted by dawkins_7 at 9:55 AM on April 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

There is one thing that is considered an insensitivity that some allergists do not test for. In me it shows up as a migrain exactly 4 hours after eating. Its called anatto extract. its what makes yellow cheeses like yellow american and yellow cheddar yellow.

I found out i had it by myself without the help of an allergist.
posted by majortom1981 at 10:07 AM on April 12, 2011

I don't know how reliable it is, but I did have a blood test for food sensitivities. I get sinus issues, and have acid reflux. Some of the foods that I avoid are from classic acid reflux lists and others are special - just for me. Milk is a big one for me, I had heard it increases mucus production for years but never thought about giving it up before. I feel a lot better.
posted by Gor-ella at 10:44 AM on April 12, 2011

is it possible that you're allergic to something airborne? My husband has similar symptoms growing up, a persistent post-nasal drip, congestion and wheeze that only cleared up when he left for college. And lo, it turned out that he was allergic to the family cat! (He also has seasonal allergies and dust mite allergies, poor guy. All were confirmed by skin tests, as well as personal experience.) Now, if he's around a cat, he's okay for about one hour before his eyes start watering, his tongue starts to swell up, and he begins to wheeze. In your case, the nasal congestion really sounds like an airborne allergen may be to blame.

Have you noticed anything that makes your symptoms better? Is it better certain times of year? certain places? At home? On vacation? Some common allegens are dust mites, animal dander, pollen, and leaf dust.

It's also possible that small quantities of whatever it is you're allergic to has found it's way into your clothes. My own crude experiment would be to go to the beach where there are no animals, dust or plants, and you're not really wearing clothing, and see if the symptoms clear up.
posted by ladypants at 1:12 PM on April 12, 2011

It's also possible you're allergic to something that is present in most pre-made foods, such as a preservative or food dye, as majortom1981 says.
This is harder to check for via elimination, so a blood test or skin prick test may be the easier option.
posted by lockstitch at 2:31 PM on April 12, 2011

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