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How to Navigate Food Allergies and Sensitivities?


medically reviewed by Dr Naveen Chandran

Ruchika Sehgal

Updated on October 25, 2023

With the abundance of culinary choices available, people need to be aware of the challenges they might face if they have food allergies and sensitivities. Whether you're directly affected by these dietary limitations or seeking knowledge to support a loved one, this is your place to be.

Read on to navigate food allergies and sensitivities - their differences, and explore common triggers and tips for a safe diet.

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Understanding Food Allergy and Sensitivity: Exploring the Culprits!

Can you spot the difference whether you are allergic to or sensitive to a particular food? Now, are these two separate entities? The answer is yes, they are different. Let's try to simplify this for you:

Food Allergy occurs when your immune system does not accept a food substance, considering it an intruder.

A food intolerance or sensitivity means that a particular food irritates the digestive system or the body cannot properly digest a specific food when consumed.

Are the Signs and Symptoms Legitimate?

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The complexities of food allergies and sensitivities bring us to a fundamental question: Are the signs and symptoms experienced by individuals truly legitimate indicators? 

Let us delve into the science behind these reactions and the validity of the body's responses. Doing so will help you distinguish between genuine allergies, sensitivities, and other dietary-related discomforts. 

If you have consumed a food item, these are the possible symptoms you might experience:

In case of a food allergy, you may experience:

  • Itching in your skin, 
  • Difficulty in breathing, 
  • Swelling inside the airways and larynx (that can cause choking, dizziness and unconsciousness), 
  • In some cases, blood pressure also falls rapidly, leaving patients cold.

Food Sensitivity may lead to:

  • Headaches,
  • Nausea,
  • Diarrhoea,
  • Cramps,
  • Bloating, and
  • Constipation 

Who Gets Affected?

FACT: A fact lesser known to people is that food sensitivity or intolerance is less dangerous than food allergy as it doesn't affect the immune system.

Food allergies can happen to anyone, anywhere, at any time. Even if you have been eating a particular food for years, you can suddenly become allergic to it.

Allergen Free Diet

An allergen-free diet is when we avoid specific foods that trigger allergic reactions. Common allergens include peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, milk, wheat, soy, fish, and shellfish.

As per Ayurveda, allergic reactions involve an imbalance in body doshas, significantly increasing pitta and kapha dosha. This can also be due to Viruddha ahara (incompatible food - to the individual and the body.)

Types of Food Allergies and Allergens

Food Allergies and Allergens

Food allergies are 'countless.' People experience different reactions, which vary from mild discomfort to severe issues. Let's learn more about common food allergies, allergens, and alternatives.

Milk Allergy

It often arises as an immune response triggered by proteins found in cow's milk and dairy products, leading to symptoms like hives, digestive issues, and anaphylaxis.

Alternatives: Ghee, almond milk, cashew milk, oat milk, coconut milk

Egg Allergy

It responds to proteins in eggs, commonly resulting in skin reactions, respiratory distress, and gastrointestinal discomfort.

Alternatives: Flaxseeds, mashed bananas, or applesauce for baking.

Soy Allergy

It can be an allergic response to soybeans, causing digestive symptoms, skin reactions, and, in rare cases, anaphylaxis.

Alternatives: Mung bean, lentils, chickpea, coconut-based alternatives. Legumes are well tolerated and provide protein.

Wheat Allergy 

It is a reaction to proteins in wheat, leading to symptoms such as hives, difficulty breathing, and gastrointestinal distress.

Alternatives: Gluten-free flours like rice, or almond flour.

Fish Allergy

You can call it an immune response to fish like salmon, tuna, and cod, ranging from mild skin irritation to severe anaphylaxis.

Alternatives: Legumes, tofu, mung beans, din fish, chia seeds, and flax seeds.

Peanut Allergy

One of the most severe allergies, peanuts can provoke severe reactions ranging from skin irritation to life-threatening anaphylaxis.

Alternatives: Sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, beans, chickpeas, etc.

Tree Nut Allergy

Like peanuts, tree nuts like almonds, walnuts, and cashews can induce severe allergic reactions with the potential for anaphylaxis.

Alternatives: Sunflower seeds, Pumpkin seeds, Sesame seeds, beans, chickpeas, 

Nirva's Allergy-Friendly Food Recipes

Who said you can't enjoy food if you are allergic? We have got your back covered with these allergy-friendly recipes:

Quinoa Stuffed Bell Peppers

bell peppers with quinoa stuffing

Cook quinoa and mix it with sauteed veggies, herbs and a protein of your choice. Fill bell peppers with the mixture, bake until tender.

Zucchini Noodles with Pesto 

Create zucchini noodles, and top with pesto made from basil, pine nuts, olive oil, garlic and nutritional yeast.

Khichari with Mung Beans 

Prepare kitchari using mung beans and basmati rice. This is easily digestive and gentle on the digestive system, making it suitable for those with allergies. Add ginger, cumin and turmeric for flavour. Turmeric is anti-inflammatory and also adds flavour to the dish.

Coconut Milk Smoothie 

Blend fresh coconut milk with ripe bananas, cardamom, and a pinch of saffron. This cooling and nourishing smoothie is soothing to an aggravated pitta dosha.

Almond Flour Pancakes

Make pancakes using almond flour, mashed bananas and a touch of cinnamon.

Ghee Roasted Veggies

Roast and mix colourful vegetables in ghee, turmeric, cumin and bell peppers. Ghee is well tolerated and enhances the absorption of nutrients, promoting balance.

Individual dietary needs can vary, so it's essential to consult with a healthcare professional or a registered dietitian before making significant changes to your diet, especially if you have allergies or sensitivities. They can provide personalised recommendations based on your health condition, dietary preferences, and nutritional requirements.

Tips to Deal With Food Allergies

tips to deal with food allergies

Here are a few tips that will help you manage food allergies for a delicious and worry-free culinary adventure:

  1. Visit the medical practitioner: The foremost step in dealing with allergies is to consult your doctor first.
  2. Declutter your kitchen: Keep those ingredients from your kitchen that you are allergic to.
  3. Read the labels: Before buying any food product, read the ingredients properly.
  4. Have a separate space for cooking: Have a separate cooking space if you are sharing the kitchen space, be it with your roommate or family members.
  5. Keep your cooking and eating utensils separate: It's advisable to have one set exclusively for the allergic person.
  6. Always cook allergy-safe food first: If sharing the same cooking space, it's advisable to cook an allergic person's food first to ensure safety.
  7. Be cautious while dining: Whenever you visit any restaurant, coffee shop or cafe, let the manager know about your food allergy before you order to avoid any bitter experience.
  8. Medication on board: Always carry your necessary medications whenever you leave your house.

Why is Food Allergy Awareness Important?

Statistics show a rapid increase in the number of food allergy diseases in the UK & England. Hence, gaining knowledge of food allergies is essential to understand when to seek medical help.

As a responsible human being, do your bit and help the society in the following ways:

1) Share your journey through social platforms, addressing small groups in their societies and localities.

2) Food business owners should get proper training about existential allergens.

3) Local eateries should sell or provide allergen-free food, too.

4) Host workshops for others to make them aware of allergens and measures that can be taken in an emergency.

To Sum Up

By educating ourselves about food allergies and sensitivities, we benefit personally and have the chance to fulfil our duties towards society by enlightening others. Let's combat this mindful expedition and walk on an enriching journey together.


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