Food allergies can be difficult to diagnose – and many people have doubts about food allergies, when actually something else.
Some food allergies can be easily diagnosed – as when someone eats peanuts and immediately experiences a rash and swelling. Other food allergies are a bit more difficult to recognize and can start later in life.
There is no perfect test for confirming a food allergy and many symptoms can actually indicate a completely different digestive question.
If you suspect that you may have a food allergy, it is important to take the following steps:
1. See your doctor
Physical examination by a medical professional is an important first step. Your doctor must know your symptoms so that you can help to discard all other causes. If you overcome the underlying medical causes, your doctor will use blood tests or skin tests to assess the immune response to certain types of foods.
According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, these tests can be sure to rule out or determine food allergy. Tests can often be proven by a challenging test, where you need to consume small portions of foods in increased amounts over a certain time to see if there is an allergic reaction. It is important to do this under the supervision of an allergy.
2. Try the elimination diet
If you know that your symptoms are not caused by other digestive problems, your doctor may suggest that you try a diet – where you will eliminate suspicious foods from your diet and gradually re-educate them.
Although elimination helps to associate symptoms with particular foods, it is not the perfect way to diagnose food allergy. You can only have intolerance to food, not a real allergy.
3. Keep a diary for food
Keep an accurate food diary, make careful notes about what you eat and as a result of your symptoms. This can point your doctor in the right direction and help you answer vital questions during your examination.
4. Visit a registered dietitian
If you have found that key food groups in your diet cause symptoms, it's a good idea to ask a nutrition expert for alternative ways to obtain essential nutrients.
5. Do not self-diagnose – ever
If digestive symptoms such as stomach cramps interfere with your everyday life and you suspect that you have a food allergy, ask for an opinion and diagnosis of a medical professional. There may be a basic health condition that you are not aware of.
You should also know the difference between food intolerance and food allergy. Intolerance can cause unpleasant symptoms such as nausea, abdominal pain, or other digestive problems, while food allergy may be life-threatening in the event of anaphylaxis.