Food allergies

Don’t let your food allergies consume you — get expert help from Dr Zeki.

2-4% of adults and around 8% of children have food allergies. It may not seem like a large percentage, but if you or a loved one are at risk of having a severe reaction to, say, peanuts — allergies are certainly a big deal. In recent years, more and more people are getting diagnosed allergic to certain foods, and food intolerance has also garnered increasing attention. These two very different conditions are complicated and difficult to pinpoint, so consulting with a specialist is an absolute must.

What are food allergies?

An allergic reaction is the result of an immune response to a specific substance. This reaction can be relatively slow and mild, or it can be intense and acute as the body’s immune system over-produces histamine and other chemicals. These more severe cases may result in life-threatening anaphylaxis, or inability to breathe. By contrast, food intolerance is simply the body’s inability to digest certain foods due to a shortage of necessary enzymes. While it can be painful and uncomfortable, food intolerance is not as dire as some allergies can be.

Symptoms of food allergies

Food allergies are difficult to identify and diagnose because they can have a wide variety of symptoms:

  • Stomach pain, nausea, or vomiting
  • Itching, hives, or rash
  • Constipation or diarrhoea
  • Swelling of the lips, tongue, or throat

Acid reflux and difficulty swallowing are lesser known symptoms, but can be just as instrumental in getting an accurate diagnosis for a food allergy.

Dr Zeki’s work with food allergies

With influencer culture on the rise, it seems that there are lots of amateur health and diet opinions flying around in the media. However, food allergies are a serious matter, so it is crucial to see an experienced gastroenterologist, like Dr Zeki, if you frequently experience any of the symptoms above.

Dr Sebastian Zeki is a consultant gastroenterologist in the NHS at St Thomas’ Hospital in London, one of the country’s leading tertiary referral centres. He specialises in upper gastrointestinal physiology and quality metrics in endoscopy — the very two areas of expertise required to diagnose and treat food allergies and other digestive issues. 

Privately, Dr Zeki is easily accessible with consultations available within the prestigious HCA at the Shard Clinic, as well as diagnostic and treatment facilities like the Endoscopy Suite at London Bridge Hospital. 

The patient journey

Diagnosis

There are three ways to confirm a suspected allergy. The fastest and simplest is the skin prick test, during which the skin is punctured slightly and the allergen is introduced to the test area. Alternatively, some allergies can be identified through blood tests, but not all. Finally, the process of elimination is another way to pinpoint an allergy; this practice involves removing the suspected allergen from the patient’s diet to see if there are changes in symptoms.

Treatment

Allergies’ presentation can change throughout one’s lifetime. There are more children than adults suffering from food allergies, which means that many of them grow out of it as they age. Similarly, certain allergies can get more severe over time. Even though there is no way to artificially get rid of allergies, working with Dr Zeki on identifying and eliminating the allergen substances from your diet is the first step towards taking control. 

Don’t let food allergies stop you from living your life

Food allergy FAQs

Is there a cure for food allergies?

Unfortunately, no — not yet. Food allergies are, however, rather manageable and will not severely disturb your life in most cases. As long as you talk to your doctor and take precaution to avoid exposure, you do not need to worry.

What is an epi-pen, and when do I use it?

People with severe allergies are advised to carry an epinephrine auto-injector, or epi-pen. It is a small device that contains a dose of medicine that can save someone suffering from allergen-induced anaphylaxis. When a person with a severe allergy is exposed to the substance, they risk losing the ability to breathe in a short amount of time. When this happens, they or someone near them must administer the epi-pen in order to stop the life-threatening reaction.

What are the most common food allergies?

The most common food allergies include dairy, eggs, tree nuts, peanuts, shellfish, wheat, soy, and fish. Some of these, like dairy and eggs, are more prevalent in young children, who often grow out of the allergy by the time they grow up.

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