Egg, Milk Or Wheat Allergies: What To Avoid
There is no treatment for food allergy other than avoiding the food in question, but this isn't always as simple as it sounds. If you are allergic to eggs, for instance, you have to avoid everything containing eggs. Besides carefully checking the labels of all commercially prepared foods, this also means speaking to your doctor about vaccines made with egg residues, which include injections for flu and yellow fever.
If you are highly allergic and have had an anaphylactic reaction in the past, avoiding the food in question can be a matter of life or death. Constant vigilance is required because the smallest amount of the allergen can set off a reaction. Just 1/44,000 of a peanut kernel can trigger a reaction in someone highly allergic to peanuts. Less sensitive people may be able to tolerate small amounts of the allergic food. Still, it's wise to avoid these foods altogether and remove them from your home.
Beginning in January 2006, the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act will require food manufacturers within the United States to clearly label their foods if they contain common allergy trigger ingredients. If you don’t see a clear statement about allergy ingredients on the label, here's what to look for:
Check labels of food products for the following ingredients: "egg," "egg white," "dried egg" or "albumin." Avoid these products:
- Cakes and cookies, unless homemade with egg-free recipes using commercially available egg replacements. Make sure you buy replacements, not substitutes. Substitutes can contain egg white.
- Chocolates, marshmallows and fondants
- Soups containing egg noodles (including alphabet soup), or any other soup made with eggs
- Custards, puddings, ice cream, filling for cream pies (including coconut, lemon and pumpkin pies)
- Eggnog and egg creams
- French toast, fritters and pancakes
- Muffins, rolls, bagels, doughnuts, or any bread that contains egg (most breads do not contain eggs, but check ingredient lists)
- Meatloaf and other meat, chicken or fish dishes made with egg or dipped in batter containing eggs
- Egg substitutes
- Sauces and salad dressings containing eggs: hollandaise, dressing for Caesar salad, Russian dressing, mayonnaise-based dressings
Milk allergy is not the same thing as lactose intolerance. Cow’s milk allergy is an immune system reaction (true allergic reaction) against proteins in milk. Exposure to even a trace amount of milk protein can be problematic for someone with a milk protein allergy. Lactose intolerance is not an allergy, but it is an inability to digest usual quantities of milk sugar (lactose). The undigested carbohydrate may cause gas, cramps, or diarrhea. People who have lactose intolerance may tolerate modest amounts of milk without symptoms, and they can reduce symptoms by using the digestive aid known as Lactaid. Lactaid is not helpful for people who have a milk protein allergy.
If you have a cow’s milk allergy, check labels carefully for the following ingredients: "milk," "whey," "dried milk solids," "casein," "lactalbumin," "sodium caseinate," "potassium caseinate," "calcium caseinate," "butter," "cheese," "margarine" and "curds." Do not eat any of the following foods:
- Acidophilus milk
- Ice cream and ice milk
- Sherbet made with milk or frozen yogurt
- Cream sauces and soups, white sauces
- Butter or margarine (except parve)
- Baked goods made with milk, including breads
- Mashed potatoes and other vegetables prepared with milk, cheese, butter or cream
- Instant cocoa, breakfast mixes and cereals containing dried milk
Wheat contains several types of protein that can activate the immune system in people who have allergic action against wheat. Because there are several ways that the immune system can react against wheat, it is best to consider each type of wheat reaction as a separate condition.
Wheat allergy in children activates IgE antibodies, which are involved in most immediate allergy reactions. Symptoms of wheat allergy in children may include nausea or vomiting, swelling of the throat or lips, hives, anaphylaxis, or (in a majority of cases) eczema. Some children or adults who have wheat allergy can trigger a severe allergic reaction—anaphylaxis—by exercising after eating a meal that contains wheat. People with wheat allergy that activates IgE antibodies are usually able to tolerate most other cereal grains. This allergy is usually “outgrown” by most children after several years of avoiding wheat products. Skin patch testing has recently become helpful for identifying wheat allergy in some children with eczema.
“Bakers’ asthma” is a wheat allergy that causes asthma. It results after inhaling small quantities of wheat flour. Bakers’ asthma is specific to the respiratory tract. People with this allergy do not have to avoid eating wheat foods, as long as they are not in the room when flour is “flying.” Scientists are not certain why people with an asthma reaction to wheat are able to eat wheat without having a reaction, but they suspect that the proteins in wheat are altered when they are cooked or digested.
If you have wheat allergy, check labels to be sure that even small amounts of wheat are not present in the list of ingredients. Look for these words: "wheat," "flour," "wheat germ," "wheat starch," "bran," "modified food starch," "graham flour," "farina," “spelt” and "semolina." Avoid these products:
- Bread, crackers and other baked goods (except those made without wheat; rye bread and cornbread usually contain wheat)
- Most cereals
- All pasta and noodles made from wheat
- Fried chicken and other fried foods dipped in bread crumbs or flour made from wheat
- Meatloaf and other foods containing bread crumbs, cracker crumbs, cereal or other forms of wheat. This includes most sausages, hot dogs and some cold cuts.
- Sauces and gravies thickened with flour
- Prepared salad dressings thickened with flour or other forms of wheat
- Pancakes, waffles and fritters
Gluten sensitivity is also known as gluten enteropathy, Celiac sprue or non-tropical sprue. It is not an IgE antibody reaction, but is still considered an allergy by most experts because it activates your immune system in other ways. In this disease, gluten proteins from wheat or other cereal grains activate your immune system’s T-cells. Certain antibodies (IgG and IgA antibodies) may be detected by blood tests to help confirm the disease. As long as your diet contains gluten, the small intestine is exposed to continuous inflammation, which thins the inner lining. As a result, many nutrients needed to maintain the normal function of your body are no longer absorbed adequately.
Gluten sensitivity can cause a variety of digestive symptoms (nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or abdominal pain). It also may cause symptoms that arise from malnutrition (fatigue, weight loss, loss of feeling in your toes or any other area, mouth sores, or easily broken bones), because your body is not getting the nutrients it needs. It also may cause a blistering rash called dermatitis herpetiformis.
Gluten proteins are present in wheat, barley, and rye grains, and small quantities are present in oats, so a person with gluten sensitivity must avoid these grains. People with mild disease are sometimes able to tolerate a small quantity of oats in the diet, but you should discuss this grain with your doctor. Gluten sensitivity is a lifelong condition.
People with gluten sensitivity must avoid the following foods:
- All of the wheat-containing food items listed above under wheat allergy
- Barley and barley malt
- Malt vinegar
- Non-dairy creamer
- Some brands of ketchup and mustard
- Some tomato sauces
- Some yogurts and specific brands of ice cream
- Hot cocoa mixes
- Hot dogs and some sausage products
- Certain processed canned meats or processed lunch meats (bologna)
- Canned soup, bouillon cubes, soup mixes
- Spreadable processed foods (peanut butter, cheese spreads, chip dips) or dressings (salad dressings, sauces) that contain thickeners, emulsifiers, stabilizers or gums
- Certain medications (consult your pharmacist)