Skin Allergy Foods: How Can Food Allergies Affect Our Skin?
If you have a food allergy, then you’ll know the seriousness of the symptoms that can be caused if you accidentally consume a small amount of the food or ingredient (called the allergen) that you’re allergic to.
We only need to look back at fairly recent news stories of two people who tragically died from the symptoms of a food allergy after unwittingly consuming sesame in a shop bought baguette and peanuts in a restaurant made curry, to know how serious an allergic reaction to food can be.
Tragic outcomes and risk to life symptoms are awful. But for many of us, having a food allergy may mean less serious symptoms, but upsetting ones nonetheless.
A reaction to a food allergen may mean that our skin becomes affected. Everyday life can be made difficult by having eczema for example, or by having dermatitis caused by being coeliac (having an allergy to gluten found in wheat).
So in this week’s article, we're going to discuss food allergies and their impact on the skin. But first, let’s look at the difference between a specific food allergy and an intolerance to a particular food.
What’s the Difference Between a Food Allergy and a Food Intolerance?
The main difference between a food allergy and a food intolerance is the severity and immediacy of the symptoms.
A food allergy causes symptoms, usually within a few minutes of eating a small amount of the food you’re allergic to. The symptoms can be fairly mild, but they can also be frightening and become severe.
A food intolerance on the other hand, causes no allergic reaction, but it may cause some damage longer term so it's worth investigating further.
Food Allergy Skin Rash: The Symptoms of a Food Allergy
Symptoms of an allergic reaction to a food include itching and swelling within or around the eyes, face, mouth, tongue and airways, a raised, red itchy rash (called urticaria, or hives), vomiting and diarrhoea.
In the most severe of cases, a food allergy triggered by eating certain foods can cause anaphylaxis. This leads to trouble breathing, swallowing and speaking and requires urgent medical attention.
A condition called oral allergy syndrome can cause itching and irritation around the mouth, lips and throat only. These symptoms occur after eating certain fruits, vegetables and nuts in someone with the condition.
An intolerance to a suspected food can cause symptoms such as bloating, diarrhoea and stomach pains. These symptoms may occur after a couple of hours after eating a food that we’re intolerant to. Often, we’d need to eat the food in a significant amount, such as a whole cheese sandwich (rather than just a tiny amount of the food that can cause an allergic reaction if we’re allergic to dairy or gluten) to trigger these symptoms.
Common Food Allergies
Each one of us is uniquely and beautifully different, so whether you have a food allergy or a food intolerance, you may be experiencing symptoms in your skin. Plus, you may or may not know that these symptoms are being caused by a food allergy or intolerance.
From now, we’ll talk about a true food allergy and its impact on the skin. But if you’re experiencing skin symptoms after eating certain foods, and you have a food intolerance, then the same advice will apply to you.
Similarly, it’s important to seek medical advice if you think you might have a food allergy that’s not yet been diagnosed. Your GP and specialist doctors can help to diagnose a food allergy or work out what food or substance might be affecting you and how you can avoid them. Once a food allergy is confirmed, you'll be able to avoid the one food or foods that cause a reaction.
Additionally, if you have an intolerance to a food or a substance, they can also help you work out the amount of a food you may need to eat to cause symptoms. That way, you can avoid the offending food altogether, or eat it in moderation.
Food Allergies in Children
Food allergies can be serious as adults, and as children, even more so. Allergies to milk, an egg allergy and peanut allergies are more common in children, as we tend to get diagnosed at an earlier age. Symptoms include breathlessness, wheezing, stomach upsets and skin problems.
If you suspect a food allergy in your child, it's essential that you help them avoid the food, and speak to your GP about allergy testing that will involve a skin prick test.
Some children outgrow allergies to milk but a peanut allergy for children is very dangerous. Your doctors will give you all the help you need to manage symptoms if your child has an allergy. Remember - prevention of peanut allergy is too late once it's been diagnosed and the only "cure" is to avoid peanuts.
Common Skin Allergy Foods: What Type of Food Causes a Food Allergy?
Eating a food or an ingredient that we’re allergic to, triggers a reaction within the immune system. The immune system is a really effective defence mechanism against disease and illness. But sometimes it can become confused and think that something perfectly normal, like food may be a threat.
This can be for example gluten, a food protein found in wheat and some other cereal products, or casein, a protein found in milk and milk products such as cheese.
When people with food allergies consume their allergen, the immune system will go into attack mode and release chemicals such as histamine that will ‘fight’ this invader. It’s this that then causes the symptoms such as itching, redness and swelling.
The most aggravating foods that can cause a food allergy include:
- Milk and milk products
- Certain nuts, such as peanuts and walnuts (so-called peanut and tree nut allergies)
- Fish and shellfish
- Soya products such as soya milk and tofu
What Skin Reactions and Symptoms Are Caused by Reactions to Food?
So, what are the consequences to our skin of having a food allergy? What symptoms related to a food allergy may appear in our skin? Aside from general itching and developing the red, itchy bumps of hives, a food allergy can also cause other symptoms within our skin.
People with a food allergy may experience symptoms including dryness, irritation, redness and even full on skin conditions such as acne, eczema and dermatitis. These symptoms can affect both the skin on our faces and over our bodies including on the arms, chest and back.
We’d normally associate a food allergy with abdominal symptoms, such as bloating, stomach pain, diarrhoea and vomiting. But they can, and commonly do, cause problems with the skin.
This means that if you have a skin problem and you also have a food allergy, the two could be connected and it may be a connection you’ve never made before. For example, if you have coeliac disease, it could be causing your dermatitis.
Dermatitis associated with being a coeliac is usually a type of dermatitis called dermatitis herpetiformis. This causes an itchy rash and fluid filled blisters that commonly appear on the elbows, buttocks and knees, although it can still form anywhere on the body.
Itchy Skin After Eating Carbohydrates
If you experience itching, irritated or inflamed skin after eating carbs, then you may have an allergy (or an intolerance) to gluten, and the same advice we're giving here will apply.
Foods that Cause Dry Skin
We often talk about skin allergy foods causing symptoms such as itching and redness. But if you're allergic to that food you may suspect is causing skin symptoms, you may well develop dry skin too. Dry skin is another symptom of a food allergy that can affect the skin.
Rash on Face from Food Allergy
Again, a rash on the face could be attributed to an allergy to that food you suspect may not be liked by your immune system very much. Any kind of itching, dryness, flaking, irritation, redness or swelling could be linked to a food allergy, but how do you know if they’re linked?
Allergic Reactions in Skin: Diagnosing Food Allergies
A doctor-led blood test and finger prick allergy test is the only failsafe way of diagnosing a food allergy.
But a way to ascertain whether or not your skin symptoms are related to your diet and any food allergies, is by carrying out an elimination, or exclusion, diet. But this isn’t a quick or easy fix and is best undertaken with a qualified nutritionist.
Elimination diets can help you work out what’s causing your skin issues but they take time and effort. The best way to do an elimination diet is with the supervision of a nutritionist, dietitian or allergy specialist.
Embarking on a Food Elimination Diet
An elimination diet involves removing a certain food or food group from your diet for a fixed amount of time (usually a few weeks) and noting down the effect on your skin. If the ingredient you’re eliminating, for example, gluten, is causing your skin symptoms, then your skin should gradually calm down whilst you’re avoiding eating it.
Then, gradually reintroducing gluten may then cause your symptoms to return. Then you may be able to say that gluten is directly linked to your skin symptoms.
However, it’s difficult to completely remove gluten from your diet, as it’s hidden in so many foods that you wouldn’t suspect, such as sauces and soups. The same goes for casein from milk - why milk powder is added to so many types of crisps, we’ll never know! But a nutritionist or dietician can help you to do it the right way and with their help, the amount of the food may vary that you can tolerate.
It’s important to be careful when carrying out a food elimination diet as by cutting out whole food groups for considerable lengths of time could mean that you’re at risk of developing a nutritional deficiency.
For example, if you avoid eating carbohydrates such as bread, rice and pasta (in particular the brown unrefined versions) then you could be missing out on important B vitamins and fibre. Therefore, it really is best to get the help from a qualified medical practitioner. Speak to your GP if you’re in any doubt or need advice.
How Sönd Skincare Can Help
Here at Sönd, we know what it's like to have skin that acts contrary and gets stressed out. We’ve suffered acne prone skin and the effects on our skin of having a food allergy.
That’s why we’re so passionate about the skin care range that we’ve developed to look after the needs of skin that doesn’t conform. Our range of creamy cleansers, moisturisers, toners and serums have been developed with alkalising silica salts as a hero ingredient that helps to nourish the skin deep within its lower layers to tackle problems at the root cause.
We also only ever use plant based, natural ingredients too, that are kind to your skin as well as the environment.
Frustratingly, there is no cure for food allergies, only avoiding the food or ingredient that's related to your type of food allergy. So looking after your skin with the right skincare is paramount.
What’s more, we’ve also created an eBook full of easy to follow recipes and tips on eating to support our skin. Each recipe is free from gluten, dairy, egg, soya, sugar, fish and nuts and has a detailed shopping list of all that you’ll need alongside the cooking instructions.
It could help you to kickstart your healthy eating plan that will help to both calm your allergies and the flare ups you’re seeing in your skin. So download it today and let us know how you get on!
This article is not meant to treat or diagnose. Please visit your doctor for advice about any health concerns you may have.