Food reactions are very common and affect almost everyone at a particular point. Research has shown that 7.8% of children and about 4% of adults clinically experience food reactions. This research has further noted that majority of the population does not distinguish unpleasant taste from food reactions. Therefore, food reactions can be defined as abnormal responses to a particular type of food that results to unpleasant characteristic symptoms (Samartin & Marcos, 2008).
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Accordingly, food reactions are of three main types: food sensitivities, food allergies and food intolerance. Food sensitivities are reactions involving an individual’s immunity, most notably the types 3 and 4 pathways. Averagely, it can take up to two days before an individual develops symptoms of food sensitivity, and this complicates the diagnosis. Clinically, food sensitivities worsen or cause medical conditions such as migraines, skin eruptions, fibromyalgia, and joint pains. Similar to food sensitivities, food allergies involve the immune system despite involving the type 1 pathway. However, allergies are invoked by a very small amount of food molecule, are instantaneous in response, and are often fatal. Usually, individuals with food allergies are affected on their respiratory tract and will clinically present with dyspnoea, conjunctivitis, and hives. Unlike other food reactions, food intolerance is digestive than immunologic in nature. It occurs in individuals who lack or have a particular enzyme in low levels. For instance, individuals who have insufficient lactase enzyme are lactose intolerant. As such, the undigested lactose in milk products is fed on by the intestinal bacteria, causing cramping, diarrhea, and bloating (Grosvenor & Smolin, 2010).
More often than not, an individual will experience a particular food reaction because of a specific component in food called an allergen. This component avoids the normal digestive process by resisting to heat when food is being cooked. Allergens further evade the corrosiveness of hydrochloric acid in the abdomen and the gastrointestinal tract. As such, they easily cross the lining of the gastrointestinal tract through the blood stream to the target organs. Here, a generalized food reaction is induced by either influences of heredity or immunity. The immune pathway involves two protein components called immunoglobulin E (IgE) and the mast cell. IgE is an allergic antibody circulating in blood whereas the mast cell is a specialized histamine storage cell located in highly sensitive body tissues. On the other hand, the influence of heredity on food reactions is greatly determined by inheritance of genes that are hypersensitive to some allergens. Thus, two allergic parents have a higher chance of having a child experiencing food reactions than two non-allergic parents (Samartin & Marcos, 2008).
Moreover, it should be noted that food reactions are in two broad phases. First, an individual needs to be exposed to a particular food type that he/she is sensitive to. A type of specialized white blood cells called lymphocytes is stimulated by the allergen in the consumed food. Subsequently, an allergen specific IgE antibody is produced in different parts of the body where it attaches to the mast cells. The second phase occurs when an individual consumes that specific type of food. Here, the allergen fits to the template IgE antibody on the mast cells to result in the production of mediators of inflammation such as histamine. The severity of the symptoms an individual will produce depends on the amount of histamine produced and the sensitivity of the tissue where the chemical is released (Grosvenor & Smolin, 2010).
Grosvenor, M. B., & Smolin, L. A. (2010). Visualizing nutrition: Everyday choices. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
Samartin, S. M., & Marcos, A. C. (2008). Nutrition research: Food hypersensitivity. Belmont, CA: Thompson-Wadsworth.