Food allergies and food intolerances are not the same thing. Food allergies are an abnormal immune response to the protein in certain foods and food intolerances (other than celiac disease) do not involve the immune system. While food intolerances can make you feel horrible, food allergies can cause serious reactions and can be life threatening. Registered dietitians can assist patients with food allergies and food intolerances, but this post will focus on how they can help those with food allergies. The 8 common food allergens include peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, eggs, milk, wheat and soy. The only way to avoid adverse reactions for those with food allergies is complete avoidance of the allergen.
Dietitian’s are the expert in the field of food and nutrition. When diagnosed with food allergies, patients and their families may not know which foods are safe to eat or how to read the label to know if a food is safe or not. Dietitian’s can teach patients and their families which foods are safe to eat and how to identify and avoid unsafe foods. They can also provide tips to patients and their families to help them feel safe when dining out. Dietitian’s can evaluate the diet of children with diagnosed food allergies experiencing stunted growth to see if nutritional deficiencies due to omitting foods are the reason for the stunted growth and give suggestions for weight gain.
Those patients who know and understand which foods to avoid can still benefit from seeing a Registered Dietitian. It is important that when foods are eliminated from the diet, nutrients are replaced since food restrictions can lead to nutrient deficiencies. For example, if dairy products are removed from the diet due to a milk allergy, it is important that the milk allergic individual is getting adequate calcium, vitamin D, phosphorous, riboflavin and vitamin B12. Evaluation of nutrient deficiencies becomes especially important for those with multiple food allergies leading to many diet restrictions. Registered Dietitians are able to evaluate someone’s diet and provide food suggestions to fill in any nutrient gaps. They can help to create ideas for meals and snacks to make sure the patient is not deficient in any micro or macronutrients.