The 10 Most Common Food Allergies

Where to find potentially harmful ingredients and how to swap them out for safer food choices
Flickr/Muffet A harmful food allergy could be hiding in some of your favorite foods.

For the millions of Americans who suffer from food allergies, it can be difficult to enjoy party food or a slice of the office birthday cake, because there is a risk of eating something they shouldn’t. Of course, notifying restaurants, hosts, friends, and even co-workers helps, but what’s even better is understanding where these potentially harmful ingredients are found (and what they’re called) to avoid any future mishaps.

Why do food allergies occur? For some unknown reason, if your immune system mistakenly identifies a certain food as harmful, it triggers cells to release antibodies known as immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies to neutralize the allergen. The next time you eat this food, these antibodies will release histamine into your bloodstream, causing everything from itchy hives to upset stomachs (not pleasant).

Though the line between common food allergies and food intolerance is often blurred, symptoms of an allergy will generally crop up immediately after consumption and no later than two hours afterward. However, depending on your type of intolerance, you may be able to enjoy small amounts of the food without issues, unlike a true allergic who will develop symptoms regardless. For instance, for those who have issues digesting lactose as they get older, small amounts may not cause a reaction, whereas enjoying a plate of creamy burrata might not end with the best of results.[slideshow:

Food allergies affect mostly young children, and approximately 90 percent of these allergies are caused by just eight foods: cow's milk, eggs, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, fish, and shellfish. Taking precautions to avoid foods that you're allergic to is essential. And while it may seem easy enough to simply not eat the offending foods, many processed and packaged foods contain ingredient labels that can be confusing to decipher. But reading the labels is necessary, because even though your favorite snack may not list eggs as ingredients, it may contain an "egg product" that could cause an allergy to flare up. But fear not, food fans, we’ve found the various ways these foods can be listed on labels so you’ll know what to watch out for and what to eat instead.

Click here to see the 10 Most Common Food Allergies Slideshow.

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