A Life with Food Allergies: Combating the Fear and Anxiety with Having a Food Allergy
Food allergies and other food reactions are becoming more and more common. Chances are, if you yourself aren’t afflicted, you have a friend or family member who is. Whether it’s a food allergy, food intolerance, or other food reaction, the implications on quality of life can be significant. FARE (Food Allergy Research & Education) has put together an excellent fact sheet to better understand the impact of food allergies in the United States.
As an allergist, I’ve spoken to many patients about how avoiding foods causes stress, and even fear, about common everyday outings. These fears affect children, adolescents, and adults. Some examples include:
- Fear of death, particularly in those who have experienced anaphylaxis
- Avoiding restaurants due to fear of contact with the food of concern
- Avoiding parties or sleepovers
- Fear of travel, especially to other countries with unknown foods
- Avoidance of engaging in activities centered around food for fear of bullying for children and adolescents
- Avoidance of social situations revolving around food, including dinner parties with friends or dating for adolescents and adults
Recently, the Washington Post published an article  highlighting recent studies on the impact of food allergies on anxiety and mental health. This article summarized the findings of two different articles from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health/ Albert Einstein School of Medicine , and from The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto , that indicate that childhood food allergy is highly associated with anxiety.
A multidisciplinary approach can help make life with food allergies and reactions more rewarding. Working with an allergist can help determine whether reactions are true allergies, generally via skin testing. Unfortunately, determining which foods cause intolerances or other reactions is more difficult, because there are not tests for these other reactions. The allergist can help determine the next best steps based on a patient’s history, physical exam, and allergy test results.
After testing, whether allergies are found or not, working with a nutritionist and life coach can help with food menus and dealing with related fears. If there is a significant, debilitating mental illness, a referral to a psychologist may be necessary. Involving other specialists, such as gastroenterologists, as necessary, can help complete the assessment process in determining problematic foods. Together, as a team, a patient-centered approach can be taken to determine dietary and behavioral solutions to lead a more fulfilling life.
FARE , The Washington Post , Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health/ Albert Einstein School of Medicine , Journal of Allergy 
To schedule an appointment with one of our allergists, call The Premier Allergist at 1-800-778-9923.