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Food Allergy
June 2003

Q. I think my fiancÚ has a food allergy. If he eats foods with red sauces, garlic or high fat content he will be in the bathroom within 10 minutes after dinner with bloating and sometimes severe diarrhea. Would these be the symptoms and how can we find out what to avoid? If it's not food allergy, what else could it be? Could it be gallbladder problems?

A. Food allergy is much less common than allergy to pollen as occurs in hay fever and asthma. It can occur in childhood resulting in a rash (strawberries are a common cause), gastrointestinal symptoms (example: egg allergy), and sometimes severe as can occur with allergy to nuts, causing severe breathing difficulty.

Food intolerance is fairly common by which symptoms which are distressing but not life-threatening can occur. This is likely the case as you describe it.

Laboratory testing is not often helpful in these cases. An elimination diet can be tried in which foods thought to provoke symptoms are tried one at a time to confirm whether the food is tolerated or not. Food allergy affects about 1% of adults: the most common offenders are shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts such as walnuts, other fish, and eggs.

http://www.foodallergy.org/allergens.html

http://www.niaid.nih.gov/factsheets/food.htm

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