HomeAsk the dietitian: Adult-onset food allergy and dietary management

Ask the dietitian: Adult-onset food allergy and dietary management

November 5, 2021

Amy Chow, RD
Amy Chow, RD

In this series, we ask dietitians across Canada to answer your questions on nutrition and dietary support. We recently spoke with Amy Chow, a registered dietitian based in Langley City, BC.

This month, Amy answers a question about the development of food allergy as an adult.

How can dietitians help with adult-onset food allergy?

dietitian consultation - practitioner and patient discussing diet plan

We often think of food allergy starting in childhood, and either persisting or being outgrown as the child matures, prior to adulthood. However, food allergy can develop at any age.

An anaphylactic reaction can be surprising and confusing, especially if it involves a food that has been eaten without incident in the past. So, it’s important to get properly tested and diagnosed by an allergist.

For an adult, a food allergy diagnosis can disrupt well-established eating habits. The mental toll of learning a new way to cook, exploring new food options, and not being able to eat foods once previously enjoyed can also be taxing.

A dietitian who is knowledgeable about food allergy is a key member of your support team and can be instrumental in assisting you with safe food choices.

Here are 3 ways in which a dietitian can support your adult-onset food allergy.

1. Help you gain confidence in managing your food allergy:

Skills that are important in food allergy management include reading and understanding food labels, finding safe food options, minimizing cross-contamination risk, and navigating social situations. A dietitian can help you gain knowledge on these skills and increase your confidence by providing tailored nutritional advice and practical solutions.

2. Help optimize your nutrition and dietary goals:

While avoiding your allergen, are you substituting the nutrients from these eliminated foods with appropriate options? There can be a big learning curve when it comes to changing your eating habits, exploring new food options, and learning new ways to cook. Substitutions are an important part of food allergy management as nutrients may be lost when familiar foods are eliminated from your diet; this becomes even more important when there are multiple food allergens involved. A dietitian can help you find safe alternatives to optimize your nutrition, through substitutions and/or supplement recommendations.

3. Help you avoid unnecessary restrictions:

Individuals who have experienced an anaphylactic reaction can understandably become anxious and fearful of food – at times leading to further eliminations and unnecessary restrictions which can minimize variety and nutrition. A dietitian can help you avoid unnecessary restrictions by providing you with credible knowledge and reassurance.

Remember, a dietitian is a part of your support team. They play an important role in a multidisciplinary team approach to food allergy management. Food and nutrition are intricate to one’s well-being and health – a dietitian can often collaborate with your other healthcare team members (e.g. family doctor, allergist, gastroenterologist) as well as your family members to provide you with well-rounded support in navigating your food allergy. You don’t have to do it alone!

Learn more

Do you have a question you’d like to ask a dietitian in the months to come? If so, send it along to us at info@foodallergycanada.ca. Please note: The dietitians featured in this series answer questions on general topics, please talk to your doctor if you have questions about your own health or the health of your child.

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