What is a Nut Allergy?
Being allergic to nuts means that your body reacts to peanuts and tree nuts (like those below) differently than other people. Instead of eating them without a reaction, your body reads the protein from these nuts as an invader and reacts accordingly. It creates specific antibodies called immunoglobin E as a defense against harmful proteins. When these antibodies are released, they trigger the release of chemicals in the body among them histamines.
The release of this chemical affects the skin, gastrointestinal tract, cardiovascular system and respiratory system causing allergy reactions such as wheezing, stomachache, itchy hives, vomiting and swelling. In extreme cases, the body can go into anaphylaxis a sudden and potentially life threatening reaction that along with the other symptoms listed can cause the airways to swell shut and blood pressure to drastically drop. At this point the person may have trouble breathing and even fall into unconsciousness.
Most Common Nuts That Cause Food Intolerance
Below is a list of nuts that commonly trigger off food intolerance:
- Peanut: The peanut is in fact a legume that simply has a similar protein structure to that of tree nuts but it is the most common nut allergy among those who are affected by nut food intolerance. Common foods that contain peanuts are peanut oil (often used as a deep frying oil at restaurants), peanut butter, peanut flour, most candy bars, some seasoning mixes and many sweets and sweet mixes. If you are allergic to peanuts, it is absolutely critical that you should look for a nut allergy warning label on the packaging or these ingredients: hydrolyzed plant protein and hydrolyzed vegetable protein.
- Hazelnut: (aka filberts or cob nuts) are a type of nut that is used in many sweets and flavorings such as in coffee. Its oil is sometimes used for cooking. Allergic reactions to hazelnuts are one of the more severe forms of nut allergy and need to take the proper caution is critical. While many foods list the nuts that they contain, alcohol and flavorings aren’t required to do this, making it important to read ingredient lists. Hazelnuts are a particularly common ingredient in flour, chocolate and many varieties of sweets!
- Pistachio/Cashew: Both of these nuts are related and commonly found in many foods. Those with allergies to these nuts are also often allergic to birch pollen.
- Almond: Almonds are one of the most commonly used tree nuts and can be found in many different forms of flavoring, sweets, curry, chewing gum, marzipan, drinks and ice cream. Be especially careful to look for almonds in oils, baked goods and even many beauty products!
- Walnut: Many people who are allergic to walnuts are also allergic to other tree nuts so caution when eating any tree nut is safest. In some cases, this food allergy is limited to the uncooked nut; this means that when the nut has been cooked, roasted or baked, it no longer causes an allergic reaction.
If you have an allergic react to any nut, it is best to have an allergy screen done to determine how many nut allergies you have and to what severity. Carrying an over the counter allergy medication would be wise. It is also a good idea to get a prescription to carry an epi-pen in case of an emergency.