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Food Allergies

Certain Types of Food Could Be Causing Your Allergies

Have you experienced allergy-like symptoms, without any indication of why? It's quite possible that certain types of food may be causing your symptoms. Food allergies are not as commonly diagnosed or initially understood when compared to the more prevalent "inhalant allergies," caused by such triggers as ragweed or dust mites.

The good news is that food allergies are indeed treatable, with a fair amount of cooperation and assistance from you.

Food allergies are classified as being either fixed or cyclic.

Fixed Food Allergy
A fixed food allergy may be very apparent, as in the person who eats peanuts and immediately experiences his lips swelling and throat itching. The mechanism for this type of food allergy is similar to that of inhalant allergies, so the diagnosis is more easily discovered. Blood testing is typically used to verify fixed food allergies.

Cyclic Food Allergy
Cyclic food allergies are more common than fixed food allergies, accounting for approximately 85 percent of cases. Cyclic food allergies are usually a little more difficult to identify, mainly because the immunologic method producing these reactions varies from that of fixed food allergies. Clinical experience is what guides us in the recognition and treatment of cyclic food allergies.

The symptoms that a patient experiences with a cyclic food allergy are highly variable. The patient may describe symptoms like headaches, sinus pressure, rhinitis, abdominal cramping, skin eruptions, or fatigue, to name a few. To complicate the situation further, the symptoms may occur in a delayed fashion, sometimes up to 24 hours after the food is ingested.

To diagnose and treat cyclic food allergy, patients are asked to follow these steps:

  1. Examine food intake. Ask yourself, "Are there any foods that I crave, or any food that I avoid at all costs?" These foods may be the ones that are causing your difficulties. At this point, there's no need to totally avoid these foods, or eat more of these foods. For now, just let us know of your suspicions.

  2. Keep a food diary. The next step is to keep a detailed food diary, recording what you ate (including ingredients when possible), when you ate it, medications taken, and any symptoms that developed (with time noted as well). Use the following sample as a guide:






    Monday     7 a.m.

    Two eggs, bacon, toast with butter, orange juice

    Allegra - D, multivitamin, Flonase

      10 a.m. Snickers bar, water    
      11 a.m.     Stomach cramps, diarrhea
      1 p.m. Hamburger (lettuce, ketchup, pickle), onion rings, Coke    
  3. When you are writing down your entire diet, people often change their diet so that it appears healthier than it typically is. Please try to maintain your normal diet; no one will judge you based on what you are eating. We can best help you if your diet records are accurate, timed precisely, and truthful. We will look at your diet diary and attempt to identify which food items may be the culprits.

  4. Modify diet accordingly. Don't let the heading scare you off. Based on the physician's interpretation of your diet diary, you will be asked to perform an "elimination" and "challenge" diet at home. It is best to continue your diet diary during the period of elimination and challenge, during which you must abstain from one, and only one, of the possible culprits for a period of four days. This can be difficult to carry out if the food is very common, such as eggs or wheat, so you need to pay strict attention to your diet during the elimination phase. Any cheating during the elimination will invalidate the results.

    You will then eat the suspected food on the fifth day; this is considered the "challenge" portion of the plan. Typically, your breakfast will include a large portion of the food in question, and your lunch should include it as well, if no immediate symptoms are apparent. Any symptoms that develop are timed and recorded. With a true cyclic food allergy we would expect a significant worsening of the symptoms that were described in the original diet diary, although the challenge symptoms do tend to vary.

    If the elimination and challenge plan confirms a cyclic food allergy, you will be asked to abstain from this food for a period of six months. After this time you can slowly re-introduce the food on a rotary basis; eating it no more than every four days (once or twice a week).

If you think you may be affected by food allergies, and would like to make an appointment to see one of the ENT physicians, please call MetroHealth Medical Center at 216-778-8890.

© Copyright 2002 - The MetroHealth System|2500 MetroHealth Drive|Cleveland, OH 44109|(216) 778-7800|All Rights Reserved.
  • © Copyright 2002 - The MetroHealth System
  • 2500 MetroHealth Drive|Cleveland, OH 44109|(216) 778-7800
  • All Rights Reserved.