People are increasingly questioning their food allergies, but how can we detect them before they develop?
A new study has found that people with food sensitivities often don’t take the test that would help determine their diagnosis.
A new paper in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology found that only two-thirds of people with a food allergy had a food sensitivity test in the first place, meaning that they were unlikely to have had symptoms.
A further three-quarters of the people who had a test reported no adverse effects.
The results are based on a questionnaire that was sent out to a random sample of 3,903 participants aged 18 and older.
In most cases, participants were asked to report the symptoms of their allergy in terms of food, milk, eggs, fish or shellfish.
The results are shown below.
When people with specific food allergies were asked whether they had experienced any symptoms, more than half of them said they had.
However, only 27 per cent reported any symptoms of food sensitisation.
In the same survey, a second set of participants was also asked about their symptoms and reported more than 90 per cent of them were not food intolerant.
In some cases, this was interpreted as food intolerance.
For example, if participants reported that they felt nauseous, it was interpreted that they had a reaction to food.
Other responses included feeling uncomfortable and unable to concentrate.
A third group of participants reported they were “unable to tolerate the food”, which meant they were unable to eat food or had difficulty concentrating.
The research showed that people were less likely to test positive for food sensitivity when they were eating more than one type of food.
The authors of the study suggest that this may be due to a variety of factors.
One of them is the tendency to self-medicate with a wide range of drugs, and other substances, which could have contributed to the lack of an accurate diagnosis.
But it is possible that food sensitization is just one symptom of a wider health condition, like chronic fatigue or asthma, and that there are other factors at play.
In particular, the authors suggest that we need to be mindful of how much information we share with friends and family.
“As people are increasingly socialising, we need them to be aware of their food sensitivity and share information with others,” Dr Zahar Al-Tayeb, a research fellow at the University of Sydney’s Institute of Nutrition and Dietetics, told Al Jazeera.
“We need to recognise that food sensitivity is not the only sign of food intolerance and it does not necessarily have to be a medical condition.
It could be just an everyday issue.”
For example, people with celiac disease are more likely to experience symptoms of an allergy, and people with anaphylactic shock are more at risk of developing an allergy to seafood.
However the study also found that those with food intolerance were more likely than those with non-food sensitivity to report symptoms such as irritability, fatigue and depression.