Q: Whenever I drink milk or eat cheese, I’ve noticed that I get a stuffy nose and a lot of intestinal bloating and gas. Does this mean I am allergic to dairy products?
A: You may have an allergy to dairy products; many people do and simply don’t know it. An allergy is your immune system’s response to a food or other environmental substance that your body interprets as foreign. If your immune system is reacting to something you have eaten, you may experience the kinds of symptoms you have mentioned.
Some people are allergic to foods that trigger an immediate reaction when they eat them. This is quite common in people allergic to seafood.
When they are eating the food, or shortly afterward, they may experience wheezing, hives or a rash. This kind of reaction can be dangerous because it can lead to life-threatening anaphylactic shock.
Another type of food allergy can cause a delayed response: a person might experience a reaction to a food eaten several days earlier. There is a wealth of information, published in numerous journals, suggesting that this type of food allergy, which is often referred to as a food sensitivity, can contribute to a number of health problems. These can include asthma, canker sores, ear infections, eczema, nasal congestion, fatigue, intestinal gas, headaches and rashes.
Various laboratory tests are available to help you determine if you are allergic to specific foods.
Although the tests vary in accuracy, many of my patients who have chosen to do these tests have gained some idea of what they are reacting to in their diet.
Another way to determine if you are allergic to a food is to eliminate it from your diet for a week and then introduce it again.
Dr. Carl Lehman, an allergist at Queen’s, points out that this can be one of the best methods of identifying food allergens. On the day you reintroduce the food you suspect you might be allergic to, ingest it three to four times.
For instance, drink milk at 10 a.m., noon, 2 p.m. and 4 p.m., and watch for any adverse reaction during the next 48 to 72 hours. It is best to reintroduce only one food at a time during any three-day test period. If you find that you are allergic to a certain food, stop eating it.
Article was originally printed in the Honolulu Advertiser, honoluluadvertiser.com