Misunderstanding Food Allergies and Celiac Disease

Nearly every day I hear someone say something that sounds absurd if you know the facts about food allergies and celiac disease. Here are the three misconceptions that I run across most frequently.

Misconception #1: Food Allergies are “Unhealthy Foods.”

Last week as I walked through the grocery store, one of the samplers offered me a chip. Of course, I couldn’t take it because of the risk of cross-contact/contamination, but I stopped to read the ingredients on the bag nonetheless. After reading the label, I quickly responded,

Thank you, but I’m actually allergic to rosemary.

To which he replied,

Oh, I’ve never heard that rosemary was unhealthy in the past. That’s interesting.

What?! Food allergies have absolutely nothing to do with the nutritional value of a food. In fact, a food allergy is simply when your body mistakenly identifies the food product as an “enemy.” You then produce large amounts of IgE antibody to fight it by releasing histamine, causing the allergic reaction that we see.

For my own personal health, it is a HORRENDOUS idea to eat any of my food allergens, but for most people, it’s not a problem at all. In fact, unnecessarily eliminating foods from your diet can cause you to eat a diet more prone to nutrient deficiencies, which is why it’s important to meet an allergist to diagnose your food allergies.

Fun fact: I was my allergist’s first rosemary allergy, so you don’t need to worry about being allergic to rosemary. In fact 90% of food allergies come from the Big 8: peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, egg, milk, fish, and shellfish. All ingredients that I color-code on my recipe tab

Today, myths about food allergies run rampant. But, you can learn more about the facts behind food allergies through reputable sources, such as FARE: Food Allergy Research and Education.

Misconception #2: Milk Allergy vs. Lactose Intolerance. 

A while back, I was discussing different non-dairy milk products, such as almond milk, when a classmate chimed in,

I’m allergic to milk too, and I love Lactaid.

I paused, and thought about how to address the multiple problems in this sentence. Hopefully, you noticed them too.

Food Allergy Misconceptions

Courtesy of VeganBaking.Net

Someone with a milk allergy can’t have Lactaid. Lactaid simply removes the lactose (a sugar) from milk, and is intended for those with lactose-intolerance. Lactose intolerance is very different from a food allergy. It’s caused by a deficiency of lactase (the enzyme that breaks down lactose) or lactose malabsorption. It can be diagnosed via a hydrogen breath test or a stool acidity test.

You can learn more about lactose intolerance (and possible clinical trials) through NDDIC.

P.S: My current favorite non-dairy milk product is hemp milk.

Misconception #3: Celiac disease is a food allergy. 

This is one of my biggest pet peeves. Last week we were having a conversation about how I was always smiling. (Clearly, this group didn’t meet me during high school). When one of my friends replied,

If you want to see Kaila angry, just tell her that you have a gluten allergy. Or even that a gluten allergy exists.

I automatically entered my open and closed fist explanation about how with celiac disease when gluten passes through your small intestine, the villi in your small intestine flatten. Since villi are responsible for absorption of nutrients, this can lead to a wide array of problems.

Misconceptions in Celiac Disease

Courtesy of TipDisease.com

Currently, the only treatment for celiac is a gluten-free diet, but it’s not a food allergy. In fact, celiac disease is an autoimmune disease.  To learn more about celiac disease, you could read some of the celiac stories on my blog, or visit the Celiac Disease Foundation’s website.

That’s all from here today. But don’t worry, we’ll have a new recipe coming out in the next post! As always, happy cooking! 

14 Comments

  1. Jenee Fortier July 16, 2014
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